VHS ‘83 Grad Writes A Musical About Music–And Life


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Don’t look for Andy Cagnetta’s name on any list of the world’s greatest guitar players or top Broadway performers. But the 1983 graduate of Verona High School has drawn on his family’s history in the music business and decades of trying to be a good person to write a musical, “In Between 48th Street,” that, while set in a New York City music store, is about helping others to find their best lives–wherever they are.

“We’re only here for a short time,” Cagnetta says of our lives on Earth. “Why be a jerk now? Just be nice. We’re all on this very small rock in the universe together.”

In Between 48th Street” will have three staged readings in Brooklyn later this month, the first step in what could be a long journey to a performance at an off-Broadway or Broadway theater. Here’s how it happened.

Cold-calling on Broadway

For decades, the music business in New York City was centered on a stretch of 48th street near Times Square. If you needed to buy an instrument, get one repaired, or get the sheet music for just about any tune, you headed to Music Row. In the late 1980s, Cagnetta found himself in one of Music Row’s stores, on a cold call for the guitar maker he represented. A store manager directed him to sit on a chair near an interior door and wait. Cagnetta waited for four hours, as others went in and out, hoping to be one of the people allowed into the room beyond. It never happened.

The incident might have remained nothing more than that, a blip in the day of a novice salesman, had Cagnetta (above, right) not found himself thinking about it again a few years ago. What if the door led to a secret shared breakroom between two rival stores, a space that was a place to work things out between them? Our brains can throw these kinds of questions at us in random moments, and offer few answers. But then there was a pandemic that left Cagnetta, like many other people, with a lot more time on his hands to think. He wrote a storyline about what might have been going on between the 48th street stores, and some lyrics.

He wasn’t entirely unprepared for the role. Cagnetta had grown up in the shadows of the music business. His Italian immigrant family made high-quality stringed instruments in America for almost 100 years under the brand name Favilla: mostly guitars, but also mandolins and a few ukuleles when that craze hit. Bob Dylan played a Favilla guitar.

Cagnetta’s own music history was more typical to a Verona teen. He formed a band called Slow Blue and played at teen parties, school events and Tierney’s. After majoring in business and economics at Lehigh University, he tried to sell guitars made by other companies to the stores on 48th street, without much luck. “I don’t think I ever made any money at it,” Cagnetta says.

He has had ample success, however, as the head of Transworld Business Advisors, a Florida-based business brokerage with more than 900 employees. He continued to play the guitar, alone and in pop-up bands for various events in the state. At one charity fundraiser, Cagnetta played with Steve Sloane, who had also written a few songs. One thing led to another, and they got to talking about Cagnetta’s idea for a show, ultimately collaborating on it.

Helping others find their hopes and dreams

“In Between 48th Street” revolves around eight characters and their struggles, dreams and conflicts. They talk to each other to work things out and become better people, something that Cagnetta wishes would happen more in real life. He says the show’s tunes are “definitely Broadway, but there’s definitely some rock ‘n’ roll in it too.”

The show will have its first staged reading soon. Eight actors will sing the show’s songs and recite its dialogue, but they will be sitting and standing in a small room and not on a fully decorated Broadway stage. Cagnetta hopes to get feedback from the audience and make refinements before inviting potential investors to see “In Between 48th Street.” “My writing partner loves to say, ‘We’re two schmucks from New Jersey and we think we’re writing a musical’,” Cagnetta says. “We want to see if we’re crazy.”

“In Between 48th Street” will be performed at the Brooklyn Art Haus in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Friday, May 17 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 18, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are a modest $10, though Cagnetta says he is open to collecting less from anyone who wants to see the show. Just drop him a line.

Andy Cagnetta, VHS Class of 1983 (right), with his co-author Steve Sloane and show director Timothy Haskell, at the auditions for “In Between 48th Street.”
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