Musical premieres at Walnut Street

By Robert Kallwass
December 6, 2007

The Walnut Street Theater: studio 5 hosts the world premiere of a new musical, “50 West 50,” written by Bill Felty and Frumi Cohen.

Bill Felty directs the unlikely story of four very unique, but close friends and their challenges as they work together on a dream they all share over the summer before senior year at college.

The four character cast is preformed by actors Gregg Pica, Miriam White, Noah Mazaika and Amy Acchione. All very young and talented actors and singers, who easily fit the role they act as the closest of friends.

To back up the actors, bold songs composed of a three person band consisting of a guitarist, pianist and drummer. They sat in the back of the small and very dark stage, with looks of uninterest.

They played a variety of songs to accompany the singers/actors ranging from heavy piano numbers to soft acoustic songs. The band lineup consisted of Jeff McDonnell on piano, Kyle McCullough on guitar and Matt Berlin on percussion.

The musical was performed in studio 5 of the Walnut Street Theater. Studio 5 has no affiliation with the theater itself, it is one floor of the building with a small stage room which is rented out from the theater. Studio 5 plays smaller venues, seating under 60 people. The stage is just an empty floor, without curtains or a backstage area, actors exit the stage by standing next to the audience seating.

The stage room did have a remarkable lighting display. The show used its lighting and small stage wonderfully to portray the setting of a restaurant basement in New York City.

Dim lighting and small space made a perfect setting for the actors, who made use of three black chairs as their only props. “50 West 50” was extremely resourceful and fitting for its stage.

The director humorously introduced the musical with four friends, one man and woman couple, and a gay man and a lesbian, are all theater majors at New York University. Then the show got started promptly. After receiving the basement of a restaurant from inheritance, he and his friends decide to re-model it into a night club where they can each perform their acting and singing.

Along the way they each encounter problems, as their relationships become criss-crossed. The straight man and his gay friend move in together and it causes a problem with his girlfriend. As the show moves into the second act, their relationships and friendships dissolve and they realize fulfilling their dreams of performing together is more difficult than they expected.

Audience member John Spotila said “I thought the music was good, but the plot line could use some re-development. It seemed like they were developing the plot line while consistently explaining the characters, without elaborating their uniqueness.”

“50 West 50” is a very alternative performance which emphesizes the importance friendship and following ones dreams. With such a small cast, the characters become very real, and the script portrays very realistic human interaction. The live band and strong singing without the use of microphones brings the show to life.

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Robert Kallwass

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