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A showcase for musical theater

South Philly composer Charlie Gilbert. Contributed photo

MusiCoLab is celebrating its official status as a nonprofit organization with the launch

of its first development workshop of Goosefeathers, featuring the music from longtime South Philly composer Charlie Gilbert.

MusiCoLab, founded in 2018 by Barbara Bellman and South Philly resident Seth Rozin, is now officially a nonprofit organization and will continue its dedication to improving the climate for developing and showcasing new musical theater work and to cultivating a supportive community of musical theater creators for networking, professional and artistic development in the Philadelphia region.

“We are thrilled to have produced nine showcases featuring 100 songs by 50 regional composers and lyricists in such a short period of time, especially considering the time lost during the pandemic,” Bellman said. “And we’re just getting started. From our experience, it is very clear that amazing work is being created here that deserves support.”

Goosefeathers, described as a high-energy comedy inspired by the characters, the situations and the lazzi (gags) of the Italian commedia dell’arte, will premiere Aug. 26 at 2 p.m. at the Drake Theater, 302 S. Hicks St. There will be an additional showing at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at https://musicolab.ticketleap.com/goosefeathers.

“The response has been excellent and it is very rewarding to present the works of so many talented individuals to our audiences,” Rozin said. “Now, we are proud to present our first developmental workshop of Goosefeathers, with music and lyrics by Charlie Gilbert and book by Steve Seyfried.” 

Seven characters will be played by just three actors (Kirk German, Chelsea Cylinder and Henry Glejzer) in a story about a farcical tale of a ruby ring, a gold coin and a gaggle of geese. John Bellomo, associate professor of theater at West Chester University who specializes in the commedia, will direct.

Gilbert, a writer, composer and theater maker who has taught musical theater at the University of the Arts for more than 30 years, is at the center of it 

“We make musical theater to thrill, enlighten and empower audiences of all ages,” Gilbert said. “In this musical, we were inspired by the characters and comic situations of the classic commedia dell’arte. This sort of virtuoso clowning showcases the remarkable ability of the inventive performers who bring it to life. Our intention is to create a work that is compact and economical to produce, so that it can delight as many people as possible.”

MusiCoLab presents several variations of programming to serve its constituency of musical theater writers and creators. It’s widely known for creating its New Musical Showcases, in which songs and selections from a variety of new musicals are presented. A recent Showcase featured seven works by Philadelphia-area creative teams, performed by an ensemble of eight versatile singers and actors.

MusiCoLab officials say they plan to present programs that feature more substantial 30-minute excerpts from musicals that are further along in their development. Goosefeathers is the first of what MusiCoLab anticipates will be a series of developmental readings, in which a new musical is presented in its entirety with a week of rehearsal and simple staging. It also plans to unveil MusiCoLaboratory, a monthly meet-up for writers and composers where they can present work for one another and hone their skills in a supportive environment.

“As a composer myself, my work could stay in the computer with no pathway to investors and other creatives,” said programming director Michael Bihovsky. “With the existence of MusiCoLab, we are providing opportunities for good musicals to see the light of day. This is very hard to accomplish without an organization like this.”

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