Friday, June 3, 2011

What Makes a Man?

Photo by Tom Schopper
A year ago I made a huge change in my life after serving for 6 years artistically leading a theater company. I knew it was time for me to walk away so that I could concentrate more on my writing as I wanted to devote as much time to this artistic part of my life as I had done for that group. A year later I have watched that company have an incredible year under the artistic eye of Kate Swan with five different productions. Her show choices for her first season at 4th Wall Theatre were carefully chosen and she has ended that season with an amazingly wonderful gem of a show. 

A Man of No Importance is a musical by the team behind the hit musical Ragtime. Based on the 1994 movie by the same name starring Albert Finney, it tells the story of a bus driver who wants his theatre troupe of 'misfits' to perform Oscar Wilde's Salome. This cast is wonderfully led by Jan Topeleski in that role. He is best known for roles in south Jersey, but how lucky our area is that he traveled north for this show. His Alfie is understated, nuanced, and heartbreaking as a man who wants to just "love who you love". I was very moved by his heartfelt performance as was others sitting in the opening night audience. The musical deals with themes of homosexuality in a way that is not always seen in a musical, but is so timely at the start of gay pride month along with the amount of discussions about bullying and equality we see now (even though this show is set in the 60s). Flaherty and Ahrens have written hauntingly melodic pieces that resonate in my ears long after I left the theater and music director Markus Hauck has taken those melodies to great heights with his pit and performers. 

It got me thinking about what makes a person important. What decides self worth? Is it like Alfie who wants to direct his troupe in his play? Is it like Greg wanting to write a novel that makes people think and get them to talking? Or is that deep down we all want to be noticed and just be loved?

I've only seen this show once before and it deserves to be done. I'm so thankful 4th Wall fills that place as as a local company not afraid of taking on those lesser produced shows. Swan's production moves beautifully from location to location in a very well thought out set and lighting design, her overall atmosphere of the show transports her audience, and her awesome cast is spot on with those Irish accents. It is wonderful seeing some 4th Wall regulars mixed in with new talent on that stage. I could go on and on about each of the performances (but I'll leave that to the real reviewers attending the show). I'll just say kudos to the entire company of this piece that definitely shows the meaning of an 'ensemble' working together for the greater whole to tell a story. 

I can't recommend this extremely moving musical enough. (It runs the next three weekends until June 18th: http://4thwalltheatre.org

Congrats to Kate & all of 4th Wall! So looking forward to the 15th anniversary season next year.

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