IRVING BERLIN & CO. Cast Album Set for Release This Monday

By: Dec. 19, 2015

Some never-before-recorded Irving Berlin songs will get their recording debuts when the original cast album of Chip Deffaa's musical play IRVING BERLIN & CO. is released in the U.S. by CDBaby on Monday, December 21st. The album, which can be ordered online now, is also available from Amazon, iTunes, Footlight Records, Google Music Store, SoundExchange, Rhapsody, etc.

The album co-stars Emily Bordonaro and Michael Kasper as "Emmie" and "Sprack"; Keith Anderson as "John Wallowitch"; and Michael Townsend Wright as the legendary songwriter Berlin; all of the stars have been involved with IRVING BERLIN & CO. (now published by Eldridge Plays & Musicals) since its first reading at Ripley-Grier Studios.

ASCAP Award-winning writer/director Chip Deffaa, who created IRVING BERLIN & CO., is considered one of the world's foremost authorities on Berlin's music. This is the 13th cast album of Deffaa's to be released, and the fourth dealing with Berlin. It follows on the heels of Deffaa's IRVING BERLIN'S AMERICA (starring Giuseppe Bausilio, currently co-starring on the Family Channel's TV series, THE NEXT STEP) and THE IRVING BERLIN RAGTIME REVUE (with MAC Award-winner Carolyn Montgomery).

"Berlin was the single most successful songwriter in history. He wrote more hits and made more money than any of his competitors," notes Deffaa. "In developing this show, I went through some 1500 Berlin songs, selecting a mix of well-known Berlin titles, such as 'Play a Simple Melody,' 'The International Rag,' and 'All by Myself,' along with some real rarities from Berlin's trunk. Brian Vincent Grimaldi, on this album, is the first singer to ever record 'They Call it Dancing'; Michael Townsend Wright and Cassie Pepe-Winshell are the first to record 'In a Cozy Kitchenette Apartment'; Jonah Barricklo is the first to record 'There's Something Nice About the South.'"

Other rarities heard on the album include "Wild Cherries" (sung by Chloe Brooks, who previously starred in Deffaa's Off-Broadway show ONE NIGHT WITH FANNY BRICE); "When I Get Back to the USA" (sung by Keith Anderson, who's most recently been doing voiceover work for the Biography Channel); "Mandy" (sung by Betty Buckley Award-winner Emily Bordonaro); "We're on Our Way to France" (sung by Peter Charney, who was in the original cast of Deffaa's "The Seven Little Foys" and is heard on the cast album of that show); "Down Where the Jack O' Lanterns Grow" (sung by Broadway/Hollywood veteran Matthew Nardozzi); and "Ragtime Violin" (sung by newcomer Jeffrey Sewell, whose YouTube work Deffaa checked out upon the recommendation of Broadway's Andrew Keenan-Bolger); and "Setttle Down in a One-Horse Town" (featuring Missy Dreier, most recently seen in Deffaa's "Irving Berlin Ragtme Revue" at the 13th Street Rep).

Also heard on the album will be Will Conard, Timothy Thompson, Jenn Spottz, Amanda Andrews, Katherine Paulsen, Hawkins Gardow, David Cook, Cody Jordan, Benjamin Grier, Megan Ulan, and Deffaa. Richard Danley is music director. Graphic design is by Frank Avellino/Logo Your show; the recording engineer is Slau Halatyn, BeSharp Studios; production assistance by Tyler DuBoys, Rayna Hirt, Max Galassi; with special thanks to Jack Sprance.

IRVING BERLIN & CO. is one of five biographical shows about Berlin (all available for licensing from the Fifi Ocard Agency Inc., NYC) that Deffaa is developing. The famously reclusive Berlin, who was fanatical about his privacy, said he did not want anyone dramatizing his life as long as he was alive. Deffaa is the first playwright to create shows telling Berlin's life story. "Berlin's songs have touched the hearts of America for a century," says Deffaa. "He's always been -- along with George M. Cohan, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, and the Gershwins--one of my all-time favorite songwriters. It's a privilege to be able to tell his life story using his own songs."

The show is inspired by a true incident. Deffaa's friend, the late singer/songwriter John Wallowitch, once organized a group of friends to serenade the elderly Berlin with his own songs, standing outside Berlin's Manhattan townhouse on Christmas Eve. To the surprise of everyone in the group, Berlin -- who had not been seen in public in many year -- invited the singers into his home, serving them coffee and hot chocolate. In IRVING BERLIN & CO., Deffaa uses that true incident as a framing device, having Berlin share his life story -- and two dozen songs -- with members of the group.

Deffaa's next production celebrating Berlin, a one-man show called IRVING BERLIN IN PERSON will debut at Deffaa's longtime base in New York, the 13th Street Repertory Theater, in 2016.