This first post-“Ragtime” show from Lyn Ahrens and Steven Flaherty is as much a departure from that property as imaginable, musicalizing, as it does, a middle-age Irish bus driver’s “coming out” story (actually, the main character is “outed” by a brutal attack by gay bashers soliciting him for sex), his attempt to bring art and Oscar Wilde to a hopeless Irish community theater group and his unrequited crush on a co-worker hunk all while dealing with a dominating spinster sister and his Roman Catholic guilt. Apart from the fact that only those who know the intimate career-destroying details of Oscar Wilde’s own troubles with “the love that dare not speak its name” will get the analogies that are set up that are never specifically explained in this show (like when the main character starts to have visions of Wilde himself), the deepest failing of the show is that the music has so little to do with what the characters are expressing or feeling. Unlike “Ragtime,” where the music tells us everything, the music here obscures as much as it reveals. If that is supposed to be “code” for the way that a repressed individual has to function within a culture where his love cannot be expressed, fair enough, but it makes for pretty boring music that never plummets below American superficial ideals of Irish pabulum pop—which is not helped either by a couple of key performers who can barely sing this stuff and virtually an entire cast that traverse a bewildering variety of would-be brogues. This would actually work far better as either a “straight” drama (no pun intended) or in the hands of tunesmiths who could, ironically, do for this story what Flaherty and Ahrens were able to do so brilliantly for E. L. Doctorrow’s “Ragtime.” (Dennis Polkow)
At the Bailiwick Arts Center, 1229 W. Belmont, (773)883-1090. This production is now closed.