HumDrum has made the perfect choice in this very good but little-known musical.
Alfie Byrne is a bus conductor who for donkey’s years has produced an amateur production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Not this year! It’s going to be Wilde’s much more controversial Salome instead.
But this is Dublin in 1964 and his theatre is a Catholic church hall. Everything stands against him, not the least being his own crisis of identity as a gay man.
Sam Sampson’s production catches both the vigour and the pathos of the show. It is sung very well by everyone with much credit due to the assured musical direction of Matt Mellor.
The large cast struggle at times with the constraints of a small stage, but this detracts little from the exuberance of the performances. James George leads the company brilliantly, finding all the wit, charm and vulnerability of Alfie, especially in the poignant and beautifully staged Man in the Mirror.
He is well supported by Peter Colley, doubling as both Alfie’s nemesis, Carney the butcher, and his inspiration, Oscar Wilde, and from Sheila Elsdon as his well-meaning sister.
Helen Stoddart is strong as Adele and Michael Gondelle finds the right mix of warmth and distance in Robbie, as the object of Alfie’s love.