A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, was a new musical based on the touching 1994 film of the same name. For this new show, Ahrens and Flaherty reunited with their Ragtime collaborator Terrence McNally, who made his LCT debut with this musical.
The idea for the show originated with McNally. "Where the next terrific musical will come from is always a mystery," wrote Peter Marks in 2002 in the New York Times. "But at a time when movie scripts are providing the blueprints for Broadway, what better place to browse than the video store? That, actually, is where Terrence McNally found A Man of No Importance.
McNally came across the movie in a video store and the story of a closeted Dublin bus conductor involved with an amateur theatrical group appealed to him, so he called Flaherty and Ahrens," wrote Nelson Pressley in a Washington Post feature on the playwright. "They didn't see quite how McNally envisioned a musical out of it. Later, 'Terrence wrote some exploratory monologues,' Ahrens recalls, 'and we said, Oh. We get it."
The story takes place in Dublin in 1964. Alfie Byrne, a middle-aged bachelor living a quiet life with his spinster sister, spends his days as a bus conductor and his nights as a community theater impressario dedicated to the plays of his hero, Oscar Wilde. A modest man, a quiet man, Alfie has always found his greatest satisfaction as the artistic director of the St. Imelda's Players, an amateur theatrical group housed in the local church. When Alfie declares that, instead of their usual production of The Importance of Being Earnest, the troupe will next present Wilde's provocative Salome, the church authorities balk at the play's "immodest dancing" and his safe little world begins to crumble.
After years of sublimation, Alfie finally wakes up to his sexuality and realizes he must take his place in the world. As Wilde declared, "The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it." Still a modest man, Alfie Byrne is no longer a quiet man. Some would even say he has become a man of great importance!