There’s a bit of art imitating art in Studio Connection’s “A Man of No Importance,” which the company opened Friday.
The musical centers on an amateur production of “Salome,” and what the actors — passengers on a Dublin bus recruited by the conductor — lack in talent they make up in commitment and heart.
This production does the same — there are varying degrees of talent on the stage at the Cabaret Theatre at the Temple of Music and Art. But the actors are clearly passionate about the material and perform with big, generous hearts.
This is a daunting project for Studio Connections to take on: It has a five-piece orchestra just off the stage, and a cast of 16 on the stage.
Director Robert Encila wasn’t intimidated by the task and shaped a show that has some sweet moments and beautiful singing.
Dennis Tamblyn is Alfie, a bus conductor who reads poetry to his passengers during the day, and directs them in a production of Oscar Wilde’s risqué “Salome” in a church basement at night. Tamblyn, who has long performed opera, has a commanding voice that’s packed with emotional subtlety in this production.
Brian Levario, who plays Robbie, the bus driver who works with Alfie, also shines when he sings. And Colleen Zandbergen gave strong voice to Lily, Alfie’s maiden sister who loves her brother and feels compelled to stay home and care for him until he marries.
But Alfie isn’t about to marry — he is a gay man who is deep in the closet. His muse, Oscar Wilde, convinces him to give into temptation. That did not end well for Alfie, and exposed him as a gay man.
Now, this is 1964 Dublin — folks aren’t particularly tolerant of anything the Catholic Church says is a sin. And it most definitely says homosexuality is a sin.
Meanwhile, Alfie is struggling to keep his band of bad actors together and in the moment as they rehearse “Salome.” But someone from the church finally reads the script and Alfie and his comrades are out of a performing space.
There are some very funny moments in “A Man of No Importance,” and while the pacing was off and the stage lights a little wonky at Saturday’s production, the laughs were abundant.
It’s hard, really, to fault a play like this — the production is packed with actors who believe deeply in the story and long to share their joy in it with audiences. Sure, the acting was all over the place, the Dublin accents inconsistent, and the singing sometimes shaky.
But then there’s that heart. That’s something big-money productions can forget and that Studio Connections has held on to tightly. That counts for a lot in our book.