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IRVING BERLIN RAGTIME REVUE Cast Album to be Released, 9/15

"The Irving Berlin Ragtime Revue" is being released on September 15th. The show, which drew packed houses throughout its limited engagement at the 13th Street Theater, features 44 of the songs that helped make Irving Berlin the most successful songwriter in history. Some members of Chip Deffaa's cast will perform at Birdland to help launch the new CD, which will be available via Amazon.com, CDBaby.com, iTunes, etc. In addition, videographer Peter Charney, who's worked closely with Deffaa for eight years, has created a new video--being released now exclusively for BroadwayWorld readers--to celebrate the release of the cast album.


This is the 12th album of Deffaa's to be released, following on the heels of the cast albums for such shows of Deffaa's as "One Night with Fanny Brice," "Theater Boys," "George M. Cohan Tonight!," "The Johnny Mercer Jamboree," "The Seven Little Foys," and "Irving Berlin's America." It is the third album of Deffaa's to celebrate the legacy of Irving Berlin; four additional albums dealing with Berlin are in the works. Deffaa, considered one of the foremost living authorities on Berlin's music, has written five different musical plays about the songwriter; all are available for licensing.
"Even though Irving Berlin never learned to read of write music, he created more hit songs--and made more money--than any of his so-called rivals," Deffaa notes. "An immigrant with very little formal education,. Berlin taught himself to play piano--in just one key--and made major contributions to the Great American Songbook for over five decades. This show--and our new cast album--features a whopping 44 songs from the very beginning of Berlin's long career, the songs that first put him on the map, the songs that earned him the title 'The King of Ragtime' before World War One. There are some very famous songs here, along with some rarities and rediscoveries that have never before been recorded."


Deffaa's hand-picked cast includes a mix of seasoned pros and promising newcomers. Deffaa comments: "You'll hear Carolyn Montgomery-Forant, who's won all of the major awards a cabaret singer in New York could win--the MAC Award, the Bistro Award, and the Nightlife Award-- along with Keith Anderson, who for my money has as fine a tenor voice as anyone in New York today. It's great to have them reunited on this album; a dozen years ago, both were in my show--and were featured on its original cast album--'The Johnny Mercer Jamboree."
Among the promising younger artists heard on the CD are Emily Bordonaro, 18, who won the Betty Buckley Award last year, and Rayna Hirt, 21, who won the George M. Cohan Award last year. Both have worked with Deffaa since they were children. The full cast includes Michael Kasper, Missy Dreier, Jonah Barricklo, Maite Uzal, Ann Marie Calabro, Michael Czyz, Andrew Lanctot, Timothy Thompson. Richard Danley is musical director. Tyler DuBoys and Alex Acevedo provided choreography. Kate Solomon-Tilley stage-managed. Matt Nardozzi served as an aide-de-camp. Jessee Riehl was technical advisor. Alex Dreier is a historical consultant. Don Brown and Richard Danley handled music preparation.


The author of eight published books and 16 published plays, Deffaa is widely credited with spurring a renaissance at the venerable 13th Street Repertory Theater--where, in the past two years, he's directed five different shows he's written. He's become that theater's most widely produced playwright; he expects to launch his next play at the theater--continuing his "Irving Berlin cycle"--next summer. "I'm very grateful to Edith O'Hara, who's run the 13th Street Repertory Theater so well for over 40 years," Deffaa notes. "She's given me carte blanche to present shows that I write and direct; and it's been wonderful. We've launched shows there that that get published and produced in many different places.
"My goals are always to educate as well as to inform. Edith O'Hara has said I've got the 'natural teacher gene' in me, just like her. Berlin's fascinated me since I was a little kid, singing his songs in school," says Deffaa (who's dedicated the new CD, with warm remembrance and appreciation, to "the good people of the Charles J. Reilly School Nine").
"Berlin was always fanatically zealous of his privacy. He blocked everyone who sought to celebrate his life dramatically when he was alive," Deffaa says. "I remember one time, Berlin read an article I'd written for The New York Post, describing how a supper club, Michael's Pub, was going to present a show tracing his life in songs. He got on the phone and told the club's owner, Gil Wiest, in no uncertain terms, that he did not want any such programs while he was alive; he said people could do what they want after he was gone. And that spurred me to create the first shows telling his life story through his songs. Berlin lived like a recluse in his final years. But, oh! What a wealth of music he's left us all. I defy anyone to listen to numbers like 'Everything in America is Ragtime,' 'Simple Melody,' or 'Pack up Your Sins without tapping your feet." '


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