A Man of No Importance
This tender story of family, friendship and acceptance teaches us that it really is a wonderful thing to "love who you love."
Show Essentials

Full Synopsis

Act One

It is the spring of 1964. Alfie Byrne stands in the social hall of St. Imelda's, a small parish church in a quiet neighborhood of Dublin. He packs up the props of his play, which has been shut down. Father Kenny, St. Imelda's priest, enters and chastises Alfie for trying to put on a dirty play. Alfie insists that Salome is not dirty; it's art.

Father Kenny leaves, and memories flood Alfie's mind: As he thinks of his friends – the St. Imelda's Players of his forsaken production – they appear behind him in tableau and then come to life. These players explain that they're about to put on a play, and Alfie is not to direct this time, but he will take the starring role ("Opening"). The players begin to enact a typical day in Alfie's life. As his sister, Lily, sends him off to work, the players create the bus, and we meet Robbie Fay, the handsome, young bus driver with whom Alfie works every day... and who seems to share something of Alfie's love for poetry ("A Man of No Importance").

Alfie makes his way through the day, charming his friends on the bus, most of whom are members of his acting troupe. Suddenly, a newcomer enters: Adele Rice. Alfie welcomes Adele by addressing Wilde's dark and beautiful verse directly to her. Both the passengers and Adele are taken by his performance. At the end of their day, Alfie asks Robbie to take the scenic route to the terminal garage. When they reach the terminal, Robbie wishes Alfie goodnight and heads for the pub. Alfie wends his way home as he has every night for years. But tonight, he feels somehow different. Something has happened today, and a tiny, new ray of hope inhabits his heart.

Inside the apartment, Alfie shares this feeling with his sister, Lily, telling her that he met a girl today. Lily, who has put off her own marriage with the butcher, Mr. Carney, to take care of her brother until he marries, nearly falls over in her chair with excitement ("Burden of Life"). Alfie explains that he doesn't want to marry the girl; he wants her for Salome, St. Imelda's next play. Exasperated, Lily berates Alfie for wasting his life in amateur theatre.

The next day at Carney's Butcher Shop, Alfie tells Mr. Carney to get ready for rehearsal Monday evening because St. Imelda's Players are putting up another show. Carney is so excited that he shoos a paying customer out of the shop and loses himself in a reverie of life on the stage. Each of the members of the troupe appear and, one by one, present their theatrical bios, consumed by the exciting news of a new production ("Going Up!").

The actors are back on the bus. Alfie's ill-tempered boss, Carson, catches Alfie giving Adele Rice a free bus ride and warns him that his generosity just might cost him his job. Undeterred, Alfie announces their next production: Oscar Wilde's masterpiece, The Tragedy of Salome, Princess of Judea. Mrs. Grace knows this to be the play with immodest dancing. Alfie assures her that it is not immodest; it is art. But, which of the ladies in the company is fit to play the 16-year-old virginal princess? Alfie approaches Adele and begins to flatter her with lines from the play. She tells him that she is not an actress, just a shy girl from the small town of Roscommon. However, as she reflects on the provincial life away from which she's run, Alfie slowly but surely convinces Adele to take the part ("Princess").

The next day in St. Imelda's social hall, Alfie and the others prepare the hall for the first read-through of Salome. They are excited to be starting a new show, despite not having an actor for John the Baptist, yet; Alfie intends to convince Robbie ("First Rehearsal").

At the bus garage, Robbie changes a tire while Alfie urges him to take the role. Robbie insists that he's not fit for the theatre, but Alfie sees something in him. Alfie has been under the impression that Robbie must be interested in Miss Adele Rice. When Alfie presses Robbie to tell him whom he fancies, Robbie refuses to say. Instead, Robbie takes Alfie out with him to the pub, where there's a different kind of poetry in the air ("The Streets of Dublin").

When they arrive at the pub, Robbie introduces Alfie to the raucous crowd. A couple of Robbie's mates prompt Alfie to give them a song. It's a ritual at the pub, and so Alfie hesitantly agrees. He begins to sing an old Irish ballad, but the crowd cuts him off, heckling and jeering his outdated tune ("Love's Never Lost"). The men leave to shoot pool, and Alfie finds himself alone with Kitty, the barmaid. Alfie is stunned when Kitty lets the secret slip that Robbie is involved with someone Kitty finds inappropriate. Before he can find out about whom she is talking, Breton Beret, a handsome but seedy young man, sits down at the bar next to Alfie. When Breton starts to make advances, Alfie becomes anxious and hurries home without saying goodnight to Robbie.

Back at the apartment, Lily and Carney are tipsy. Carney is upset about the content of the play. Lily reveals to Carney that Alfie always keeps his bedroom door locked. They conclude that all of their problems would be solved if Alfie would just stop reading foreign books behind closed doors and find himself a wife ("Books").

Alfie arrives home from the pub and quickly retreats to his bedroom. He stares at himself in his dresser mirror. He is an aging man who does not know who he is. Oscar Wilde appears before him, as in a dream, and finally with Wilde's help, Alfie admits to himself that he is in love with Robbie ("Man in the Mirror").

The following evening, Mr. Carney is conspicuously missing from rehearsal, and Alfie struggles to carry on without his King Herod. As Alfie dismisses the players, Lily enters and catches Adele on her way out. She tells Adele that her brother has his eye on her, but is just too shy to say it, so she takes it upon herself to invite Adele for dinner on Sunday ("Burden of Life – Reprise"). Lily then fixes it so that Alfie will walk Adele home. On their way, Adele confesses to Alfie that she could not date him because she has a boyfriend, John, back in her hometown. She becomes suddenly tearful – she is not who Alfie thinks she is. Although she reveals nothing more, Alfie knows a little something about secrets. He consoles her ("Love Who You Love").

Alfie makes his way home, when Breton Beret suddenly steps out of the shadows. Slick and seductive, he propositions Alfie, telling him that he knows where to find him... before disappearing. Alfie is caught between his own shame and desire when Oscar Wilde once again appears to him. Using his famous wit, Wilde encourages Alfie to yield to temptation.

Act Two

Mrs. Patrick sings a hymn while Robbie and a pub band play a vigorous melody; the two songs join ("Our Father"). We find Alfie in the confessional. Father Kenny listens as Alfie relates only his most petty sins. Robbie appears as a voice in Alfie's mind, articulating the depth of his shame as Alfie continues to avoid confessing to Father Kenny his feelings for Robbie ("Confession").

After the service, Father Kenny and the parishioners exit the church. Father Kenny admits that he would rather their acting troupe do The Importance of Being Earnest, as they did last season. Carney makes an ominous reference to a special meeting of the sodality. Alfie leaves Lily to go to the cemetery and pay his respects to his father. He runs into Baldy, who's bringing a bouquet of flowers to the grave of his late wife, Mary. As he recalls his own marriage, Baldy suggests to Alfie that it's time he find a woman ("The Cuddles Mary Gave").

That evening at St. Imelda's, Alfie and the cast are in a frenzy with props, sets, dances and posters – Salome's opening is now only a week and half away. There's a lot to do, but it's worth it for how good it makes them feel in the end ("Art"). Adele begins rehearsing Salome's speech, wherein she laments the loss of her virginity to the prophet Jokanaan. In front of the whole cast, Adele bursts into tears and runs from the hall. Alfie follows her, and she reveals that she will be having a baby out of wedlock. Adele runs off, and Father Kenny enters, calling Alfie immediately into an emergency meeting of the church sodality ("A Man of No Importance – Reprise Part 1"). Carney blows the whistle on Alfie's blasphemous play ("Confusing Times"). The Monsignor cancels Salome and orders the permanent disbanding of the St. Imelda's Players ("A Man of No Importance – Reprise Part 2").

Dejected, Alfie wanders to the bus garage, only to discover Robbie making love to the married Mrs. Patrick. Robbie proclaims that he's glad someone finally knows of their clandestine affair because he's in love with her and wants to marry her... although it's clear that this can never be. She picks up her things and goes. Alfie is taken aback, and Robbie lashes out at him, telling Alfie that he could not possibly understand what it's like to love someone you can never have ("Love Who You Love – Robbie's Reprise").

Back in his room, Alfie sits in front of his mirror and makes himself up in the style of Oscar Wilde. The characters of his life emerge and help him prepare ("Man in the Mirror – Reprise"). Finally, Oscar Wilde appears and hands Alfie a broad-brimmed hat, cape and walking stick. His transformation complete, he sets off for the pub with a new confidence, as he embodies the spirit of Oscar Wilde.

Alfie enters the pub and propositions Breton Beret. Breton takes Alfie's hand and leads him out into the dark night. Alfie is unaware that there are other figures looming in the shadows. Breton removes Alfie's hat, caresses his hair, loosens his scarf and then punches Alfie in the face. The figures rush towards Alfie. They beat him up, take his wallet and disappear before the police arrive. Delirious, Alfie calls for Robbie, his Bosie. Lily and Carney happen by the scene and take Alfie home. The news quickly spreads throughout the community that Alfie Byrne is gay and in love with Robbie.

The next morning, Lily and a badly bruised Alfie sit at breakfast. Lily is confused and hurt. She tells Alfie that it's not fair that he has kept this secret, thereby keeping her from happiness, while not trusting her to love him, regardless ("Tell Me Why").

Alfie arrives at work to find a new driver in Robbie's place. Carson tells Alfie that once Robbie heard the truth about him, he requested a new assignment. All of Alfie's friends seem to have found other routes to their destinations this morning ("A Man of No Importance – Reprise"). Adele enters the bus with a suitcase. She's leaving for England to create a life for herself and her baby. Adele and Alfie have helped each other learn that there is no room for shame in love, and she bids him a fond farewell ("Love Who You Love – Reprise").

Alfie stands alone in St. Imelda's social hall and reflects on his life, realizing that he can no longer hide from the world ("Welcome to the World"). Just then, a bright shaft of sunlight penetrates the dimly lit room as Robbie enters. Robbie explains that Carson was behind his transfer, and he's been working to get moved back to Alfie's bus, despite the news of his secret. Although he cannot return the kind of love that Alfie has harbored for him, Alfie is his friend, and he offers to take a part in the play. No sooner does Alfie explain that there is no play, that Carney has turned all of his friends against him, than Baldy enters with the news that he's found a new location for Salome. The rest of the troupe and Lily crowd into the hall; each member affirms his loyalty to Alfie.

Since all new members of the St. Imelda's Players must perform a reading as a sort of rite of passage, Alfie hands Robbie a book, and he reads a poignant excerpt from Oscar Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol. The curtain falls.

← Back to A Man of No Importance
Cast Size: Medium (11 to 20 performers)
Cast Type: Ensemble Cast
Dance Requirements: None

Character Breakdown

A girl new to Alfie's bus route who he thinks will be perfect for his play. She is a young, sweet, "small-town" girl who is wise beyond her years.
Gender: female
Age: 18 to 25
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: C4
Average looks and build, he is a dreamer who idolizes Oscar Wilde. He is in love with Robbie but wrestles with his sexuality throughout the story.
Gender: male
Age: 35 to 45
Vocal range top: E4
Vocal range bottom: A2
Also known as James Michael O'Shea, he is the resident stage manager at St. Imelda's. He lost his wife early in life.
Gender: male
Age: 50 to 70
Vocal range top: G4
Vocal range bottom: B2
Breton Beret
Seduces Alfie in order to beat him up for being gay.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 35
Vocal range top: C4
Vocal range bottom: A2
The local butcher who is the usual star of Alfie's productions and boasts an ego about it. The most socially and morally conservative member of the community.
Gender: male
Age: 45 to 60
Vocal range top: G4
Vocal range bottom: A2
Ernie Lally
The company set designer.
Gender: male
Age: 25 to 40
Vocal range top: G4
Vocal range bottom: B2
Father Kenny
Lily Byrne
Alfie's sister who cares deeply for him, but finds him odd. She is socially and morally conservative.
Gender: female
Age: 40 to 50
Vocal range top: C5
Vocal range bottom: E3
Miss Crowe
The company costume designer.
Gender: female
Age: 40 to 60
Vocal range top: A5
Vocal range bottom: B3
Mrs. Curtin
An actor in the company and the choreographer.
Gender: female
Age: 30 to 40
Vocal range top: D5
Vocal range bottom: A3
Mrs. Grace
Mrs. Patrick
Robbie's married lover and the mother of three children.
Gender: female
Age: 35 to 45
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Oscar Wilde
Rasher Flynn
The company technician.
Gender: male
Age: 25 to 35
Vocal range top: E4
Vocal range bottom: A2
Alfie's coworker and closest friend. He is charming, honest and likeable.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 35
Vocal range top: A4
Vocal range bottom: C3
Sully O'hara
Full Song List
A Man Of No Importance: A Man of No Importance
A Man Of No Importance: The Burden of Life
A Man Of No Importance: Going Up
A Man Of No Importance: Princess
A Man Of No Importance: The Streets of Dublin
A Man Of No Importance: Books
A Man Of No Importance: Man in the Mirror
A Man Of No Importance: Love Who You Love
A Man Of No Importance: Our Father
A Man Of No Importance: Confession
A Man Of No Importance: The Cuddles Mary Gave
A Man Of No Importance: Art
A Man Of No Importance: A Man of No Importance (Reprise)/Confusing Times
A Man Of No Importance: Love Who You Love (Robbie's Reprise)
A Man Of No Importance: Man in the Mirror (Reprise)
A Man Of No Importance: Tell Me Why
A Man Of No Importance: Love Who You Love (Adele's Reprise)
A Man Of No Importance: Welcome to the World
A Man Of No Importance: Poem

Show History


Following their thrilling and successful collaboration on Ragtime, Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Terrence McNally knew that they had to work together again. After the size and scope of Ragtime, all three wanted to do something more intimate and chamber-sized.

Flaherty had also been wanting for years to do an Irish-themed piece, as well as one that would give him the opportunity to write for a gay character. It was McNally who first suggested an adaptation of the 1994 Albert Finney film, A Man of No Importance. Unlike Ragtime, it was a property that not many people knew, and it seemed to have all of the elements that the team wanted.  At first, though, neither Flaherty nor Ahrens saw how the piece could be  musicalized, but when McNally came upon the idea of having the show unfold in the memory of Alfie Byrne, A Man of No Importance began to sing.


  • A Man of No Importance began with an early reading at The Irish Repertory Theatre, and several readings at Lincoln Center Theater.
  • The show opened Off-Broadway at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse Theater on October 10, 2002, with a cast that was led by Tony Award winners, Roger Rees and Faith Prince.
  • A Man of No Importance then enjoyed subsequent productions in Canada and the West End.

Cultural Influence

  • A cast recording of the Lincoln Center Theater production was recorded in 2002 and released in 2003.
  • The original cast featured Roger Rees, Faith Prince, Jessica Molaskey and Stephen Pasquale.
  • The title, A Man of No Importance, is a reference to Oscar Wilde's famous play, A Woman of No Importance, from 1893.


  • A Man of No Importance received seven Drama Desk nominations, including Best Musical, Best Music and Best Lyrics.
  • The Lincoln Center Theater production of A Man of No Importance marked the first musical venture for celebrated director, Joe Mantello.

Critical Reaction

"Rich in the necessary ingredient needed to make musicals sing – people about whom you care."
– Associated Press

"A major musical in everything but pretension. A work of subtle power."
– Newsday

Drama Desk Award

2003 - Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical, Nominee (Steven Pasquale)
2003 - Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical, Nominee (Charles Keating)
2003 - Outstanding Music, Nominee (Stephen Flaherty)
2003 - Outstanding Musical, Nominee (A Man of No Importance)
2003 - Outstanding Lyrics, Nominee (Lynn Ahrens)
2003 - Outstanding Book of a Musical, Nominee (Terrence McNally)
2003 - Outstanding Direction of a Musical, Nominee (Joe Mantello)

Outer Critics Circle Award

2003 - Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical, Winner (A Man of No Importance)



Based on the film of the same name


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Based on a Film "A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE"
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