Theater Review – A Man of No Importance – Burlington County Footlighters Intern Co.

What an outstanding effort by an “Intern Company”! I attended a performance of A Man of No Importance at Burlington County Footlighters in Cinnaminson, New Jersey. The cast, crew and band performed an exceptional job of staging this production set in 1964 Dublin. They did so well with the costuming, dancing and Irish accents, that I could taste the Guiness. When I got up to leave the theater I caught myself looking around for my Nehru jacket. Talk about getting into a play!

A Man of No Importance was the most challenging musical I’ve ever seen. A number of scenes entailed solo singing without the benefit of musical accompaniment. To make matters tougher for the actors, but I can’t imagine the ardors of trying this in a thick Irish Brogue in front of a live audience. I give Ryan Kiernan (Alfie) great credit for taking on such a demanding role, I’d give him even more kudos for the outstanding way he pulled it off. Anthony Ieradi (Robbie) and Allie Payne (Lily) turned in exceptional vocal performances as well.

I liked the overall premise of the story. It showed the travails of a theater group attempting to put on a scandalous play in a church; that performance being Oscar Wilde’s Salome. (Hey, this was the 1960s.) As the drama progressed, the figure of Salome (Moira Miller) periodically danced in the background. Each time she’d appear, she’d remove one of her veils to reflect the further revealing of the tale. I won’t give away spoilers, but Oscar Wilde figured into the story and even spoke to Alfie on several occasions.

It surprised me to discover that (according to Wikipedia) the play was based on a 1994 film. I didn’t think that the major issues explored in the drama would have the same impact with a modern audience as they would in 1964 Dublin. Today, the ideas of a single mother, homosexuality and marital infidelity are blasé ideas to incorporate into a story. I realized the real point centered on how the protagonist (Alfie) responded to them. His friend Robbie told him he needed to see more of real Dublin. Alfie’s sister explained that he had a lot of books. The story served as an enlightening peek at one man’s voyage of self-discovery in a supposedly conservative society.

One issue I usually have with musicals in that the constant singing tends to break up the narrative flow. The songs in A Man of No Importance, helped advance the story. Mr. Kiernan’s rendition of “Welcome to the World” drew me into the character’s emotional state. I’ve never heard a song that achieved this so well.

Moira Miller (Salome) did an exceptional job with costume design. Everyone dressed just like someone from the period. I got a true sense that the action took place in the 1960s based on the actors’ attire. The added touch of the janitor’s “Yardbirds” tee shirt showed phenomenal attention to detail.

I have to admit that I liked the performers much more than I enjoyed the show itself. I’m always impressed by the skill level of the actors in so-called “community theater.” The traditional Irish dance at the opening of Act II was absolutely phenomenal. I couldn’t believe that the performers in this show either attended high school or college. They seemed much too advanced in the craft for “interns”. They may be men/women of supposedly no importance now, but they’ll be big somebodies on Broadway someday if they keep turning in solid performances like they did today.

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