Roger Rees amidst the cast of A Man of No Importance.
The show is based on the 1994 film of the same name. The movie, set in 1963 Dublin, starred Albert Finney as Alfie Byrne (Rees), a closeted gay bus conductor with a passion for Oscar Wilde who still lives with his spinster sister (Prince). The story concerns Alfie's torn passion for two people — sister and colleague, to say nothing of a young woman who steps onto his bus — and his coming to terms with his true nature as he directs an amateur staging of Wilde's Salome, which includes the "immodest" dance of the seven veils. The secular and the religious — the artistic and the sacred — clash in both the movie and musical, and Alfie is on the edge of being someone new at the end of the tale.
The title is a play on the Wilde work A Woman of No Importance. The musical is a love letter to the countless amateur showfolk who create theatre (or "art," an oft-used word in the show) in churches, town halls and provincial auditoriums.
The conceit of the show has Alfie's community theatre pals acting out recent events in his life. Joe Mantello directs, with musical staging by Jonathan Butterell, musical direction by Ted Sperling (recently named associate artistic director of Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia), sets by Loy Arcenas, costumes by Jane Greenwood, lighting by Donald Holder and sound by Scott Lehrer.
The show received a reading at Lincoln Center Theater in March 2001, directed by Mantello, who is busy this year with Frankie and Johnny... on Broadway and the Off-Broadway hit, Take Me Out, at The Public Theater (expected on Broadway in spring).
The intimacy and smallness of the story was one of the things that attracted songwriters Ahrens and Flaherty to A Man of No Importance, Ahrens told Playbill On-Line earlier this year.
"After Ragtime, that's what we wanted to do — something really small," Ahrens said.
Whose idea was it to musicalize the film?
"Terrence found it," Ahrens said. "He had seen it, and he brought it to us. We had been talking about doing something else together [following Ragtime]. We saw it and we loved it."
What's the music like?
"It's all kinds of Irish, from contemporary stuff to '60s stuff to really traditional Irish stuff, but it's all Stephen Flaherty," Ahrens said. "It's Flaherty-inflected."
In previews, audiences have been cheering Prince's performance as the dowdy spinster sister, Lily, who chooses to not marry until her brother does, providing her with songs both comic and rueful.
Sally Murphy, remembered for Lincoln Center Theatre's Carousel, plays the shy newcomer to Dublin, enlisted to play Salome.
Rob Berman directs the orchestra. Orchestrations are by Christopher Jahnke. Among the musical numbers is a title song, plus "Going Up" (an ode to putting a show on), "Princess," "The Streets of Dublin," "Books," "The Cuddles Mary Gave," "Man on the Mirror" and what's sure to be an Ahrens and Flaherty favorite, "Love Who You Love."
Prince won her Tony for Guys and Dolls a decade ago. After a solo cabaret debut in early 2000 at Joe's Pub and a supporting turn in an Off Broadway revival of The Torchbearers, she returned to Broadway, replacing Blair Brown in James Joyce's The Dead. In early 2001, she headlined a revival of the musical, Bells Are Ringing. The production didn't last, but Prince received a Tony nomination for her work. She returned to Broadway in 2002 for the third season running in Noises Off, using her off-time to participate in a workshop of the new Disney musical When You Wish. A Man of No Importance will be Prince's first original musical credit, in which she originates a role, since 1991's ill-fated Nick and Nora.
Though Rees has many Broadway credits to his name — Indiscretions, The Rehearsal, Uncle Vanya and, most famously, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby — he is not known for his musical theatre work. A native of England, he possesses a range a West End experience as well.
Murphy starred in the Lincoln Center Theater production of Carousel as Julie Jordan. Last season, she acted in Brutal Imagination at Off Broadway's Vineyard Theater. Ronn Carroll starred in Oklahoma! on Broadway. A musical mainstay, his credits include Annie Get Your Gun, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Steel Pier and Crazy For You.
Moran starred opposite Prince in 2001's short-lived mounting of Bells Are Ringing, as well as How to Succeed... and Titanic. Molaskey performed in Dream with her husband, John Pizzarelli, and recently released a disc of '20s and '30s songs, "Pentimento." Creek was a cast member of Rent. McCormick was in Marie Christine. Wardell's credits include James Joyce's The Dead and Throughly Modern Millie.
McCourt starred in Bat Boy and The Castle Off Broadway. Perkins was in The Full Monty and McGrath was seen in The Music Man. Keating won a Tony nomination for Loot, a play he recently acted in again at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Marineau played Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast for two years on Broadway and was in the recent revival of The Women at the Roundabout Theatre Company.