By Rodger Hara

An influential figure in the history of Irish rock, an award-winning off-Broadway musical, the Arvada Center and Colorado’s multi-talented band Colcannon intersect in a Celtic-harmonic convergence with the Regional Premiere of the play A Man of No Importance this month.

Horslips was one of the first Irish bands to combine traditional songs with a rock beat. The band was together from 1970 until 1980. In 1994 Barry Devlin, an original member of the band, its vocalist and front man, was writing for television (including some scripts for Ballykissangel), producing music videos (some early U2 clips) and doing screenplays, including the one for the film upon which the musical is based. Starring Albert Finney, it briefly appeared and vanished almost without a trace, doing less than $1 million at the American box office.

In the fall of 2002, the musical based on the film debuted off-Broadway in the Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City. Developed by the creative team that won Tony Awards for Ragtime, the production won the Outer Critics Circle award for the best off-Broadway musical of 2003.

Rod A. Lansberry, Arvada Center Artistic Producer saw the play at the Lincoln Center in 2002 and fulfills a long-held dream of presenting and directing the show for Denver audiences with this production. On a trip to Europe last year, he spent four days in Dublin where he explored the city, visited pubs and spent time with a man named Liam in the Dublin Transportation Museum gathering background information, inspiration and details for the set and costumes.

Colcannon is on stage for the entire show providing music for and interacting with the cast with keyboard and percussion support from the Arvada Center Music Director and Assistant Director respectively. The music written for the show reflects an Irish influence and as Mick Bolger says, “The music is very good — really well-written and arranged and there’s certainly a flavor of Irish Folk to it. It’s a fine show and I think the Arvada Center does it justice. We’re there to support the cast and get to do a short pre-show each night before the main show … so we get to be just Colcannon for a while every evening.”
The play tells the story of Alfie Byrne, a gay and closeted bus driver who lives in a working-class neighborhood of Dublin. An Oscar Wilde devotee, he has ambitions to perform Wilde’s Salome with his amateur theater troupe in the local church hall; however, Alfie doesn’t realize the controversy his choice of title will create with the church leaders. With the play opening in jeopardy, Alfie turns to someone he thought was a friend, only to be confronted by anger and rejection. The theater troupe stands beside him and helps Alfie find his place in the world.

Set in an Irish pub called Scruffy Murphy’s (Denver’s LoDo pub of the same name has provided support for the play), the action and music take place in a setting familiar to those with their own local or who have visited one in Ireland.

Devlin visited Denver in 2009 while filming a series for Ireland TV’s Irish language channel TG4 in which he and bandmate Jim Lockhart traced the life of Donegal man Micky MacGowan, whose journey across America inspired some of the band’s finest work. When told about the premiere of the play here, he said “That’s really interesting. Yeah, I wrote the film the musical is based on. Great to see it’s still out there.”

Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday at 1:00 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. through May 17. Moderated Talk Backs are scheduled on Friday, May 8 following the 7:30 p.m. performance and Wednesday, May 13 following the 1:00 p.m. performance. For additional details and to purchase tickets go to importance-2015 or call 720-898-7200. The Arvada Center is located at 6901 Wadsworth Blvd. and provides free parking for all of its patrons. *Please note: This production contains mature subject matter*

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