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A new cast album for ASCAP Award-winning writer/director Chip Deffaa's musical play "Irving Berlin's America" (published and licensed by Steele Spring Stage Rights) is being released today. Michael Townsend Wright and Matthew Nardozzi co-star on the new album. An earlier cast album of the show, with Wright and Giuseppe Bausilio--co-stars of the first New York production at the 13th Street Theater--will continue to be available. Both albums are being distributed in the US by CDBaby, and are available now from Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Footlight Records, etc.
This is the third new album produced by Deffaa to be released this month, following hot on the heels of "The Chip Deffaa Songbook" and "Irving Berlin Revisited." Michael Townsend Wright and Matt Nardozzi are the only performers on all three of the new albums.
Deffaa comments: "Fans of Matthew Nardozzi--who may have seen him do this show, or may see him do a future production of this show--may especially appreciate this new album.I like the natural, wholesome, all-American quality he projects. And it's always fun seeing and hearing different actors, each with their own strengths, offer their own particular take on a role. It's great to now have cast albums of this show featuring both Giuseppe Bausilio and Matthew Nardozzi; they're both tremendous favorites of mine, on stage and off. I might add--'Irving Berlin's America' is my own personal favorite, of the five different shows I've written about Berlin, and I'm very particular about who I'd want to do the show. These are performers I love.
"I've always relished the idea of having alternate versions of cast recordings, ever since I was a kid and had the great pleasure of seeing both Carol Channing and Pearl Bailey star in 'Hello Dolly!' during its long Broadway run. Both stars were terrific, in very different ways. RCA Victor was smart enough to record cast albums of both versions of the show--and I happily wore out both of those albums, playing them time and again.
Deffaa adds: "Michael Townsend Wright, who portrays master-songwriter Irving Berlin on the album, may be twice the age of co-star Matthew Nardozzi--but they're both pro's with lots of experience on stage, screen, and television. Both are members of SAG-AFTRA and Actor's Equity. Both are a joy to watch on stage. And a joy to work with. They're part of a small group of actors--along with Bausilio, Beth Bartley, Jon Peterson, Emily Bordonaro--I'd be happy to work with, any chance I might get. Michael and Matthew have a good rapport, a good chemistry together, and I think that will come through on the new cast album. (CDBaby has provided a sample of their work together on the new album, exclusive to Broadwayworld--their duet on Irving Berlin's first and greatest "double" song, "Simple Melody"/"Musical Demon": .)
"I actually wrote the show for Michael Townsend Wright," says Deffaa. "I've known him a good quarter-century, since the days when he was a regular on television's 'Uncle Floyd Show.' He's shared stages with everyone from Tiny Tim to Carol Channing. He was Joey Faye's last burlesque partner.
"I first saw Matt Nardozzi when he was in such Broadway shows as 'Dracula' and 'Inherit the Wind.' And he had that certain spark from the start. His film credits include 'Chapter 27' with Jared Leto, 'The Peter Cooper Story,' and 'Derek & Lucas.' He's won the Young Artist Award--and maybe his work on this album and show will help him win another. He's not just talented and likable on stage, he's utterly reliable. When I invited him to do 'Irving Berlin's America' at the Rosen Theater in New Jersey, he arrived at the very first rehearsal virtually off-book--he'd learned almost the entire script and score on his own. It's incredibly rare to meet actors like that."
"Irving Berlin's America" is one of five different shows that Deffaa-perhaps the foremost living authority on Berlin's music-has written about the famed songwriter. "Berlin was the most successful single songwriter in history. He composed the scores for 19 Broadway shows, 18 Hollywood musicals. He wrote more hits-and made more money-than any of his competitors," Deffaa says. "And then he became a recluse. He blocked all attempts to dramatize his life; he told anyone who proposed telling his life story on stage or screen, saying 'Not while I'm alive!' He was extraordinarily zealous about guarding his privacy.
"In this show, a very elderly Berlin meets a young man who just might be the Angel of Death. I've always loved Berlin's music, and I've collected Berlin sheet music and memorabilia for many years. But the inspiration for this particular show came from an elderly Jewish friend who loved Berlin's music as much as I did--and could show me where Berlin had been influenced by older Jewish music. My friend was dying, but he was unafraid. He said: 'How could one be afraid of "Malakh-hamoves"--the Angel of Death? He is God's Messenger. And if he says your time has come, he knows. There is a time that the fruit must fall from the tree. It is good for the fruit. It is good for the tree.' And right there, I had the play. It is very special to me.
"I'm glad to have opportunities to celebrate Berlin's legacy via the shows I'm creating-and the albums we're recording. I'm very grateful that Edith O'Hara, the 100-year-old producer who runs the 13th Street Theater, is such a strong supporter of my ongoing Berlin project. She's encouraged me to do all that I can in celebration of Berlin at her theater," notes Deffaa, who has become the 13th Street Rep's most-frequently-produced playwright. "Berlin's legacy is so great, it will take multiple shows--a whole cycle of shows--to properly salute him. We've workshopped shows at her theater. And we're in the process of recording all of the shows, too--plus albums of assorted never-before-recorded Berlin songs--to help get the music out there, and help introduce Berlin's legacy to another generation."
In addition to Wright and Nardozzi, the new cast album also features music-director Richard Danley on piano, plus Grammy winners Vince Giordano (on bass) and Andy Stein (on violin).

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