Irving Berlin, The American Dream In Song
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Irving Berlin, The American Dream In Song

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"Review: Irving Berlin, The American Dream In Song"

Irving Berlin may have considered Franz Schubert a “high-brow” type, along with Wagner and Verdi, but Berlin probably wouldn’t have minded knowing that he produced his own timeless songs at roughly the same rate the elder master did.

In fact, music legend has it that “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” one of Berlin’s most popular songs, was born within a span of 18 minutes, a feat on a par with Schubert’s famous improvisations.

A tiny but representative fraction of Berlin’s staggering output – 30 of his 1,500 songs – was sufficient for a lavish feast of music honoring the composer Sunday afternoon at Cuyahoga Community College’s Eastern Campus Performing Arts Center. The tribute included “White Christmas,” “God Bless America” and songs from “Annie, Get Your Gun,” some of Berlin’s greatest contributions to popular culture.

Originally produced by Tri-C JazzFest, “Irving Berlin: The American Dream in Song” was presented to a full house by the Jewish Community Center of Cleveland.

Conceived and narrated by jazz exponent Bill Rudman, the program was an educational biography, with musical highlights spanning Berlin’s 1907 song “Marie from Sunny Italy” to 1954’s “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me.”

Song performances dovetailed with an outline of Berlin’s rise to fame and incredibly long career illustrated by selections from biographies, historic photos and pictures of Berlin’s star-studded milieu (Fred Astaire, the Gershwins and Ethel Waters).

Pianist Joe Hunter shared narrating duties, sang an occasional song and led a sensitive background combo that included bassist Bryan Thomas and drummer Ray Porrello. The pleasure of hearing 21-year-old singer Erin Kufel, though, was second only to that of recollecting so many of Berlin’s catchy tunes.

Kufel, whose talent and vocal maturity belied her age, turned the large theater into an intimate cabaret with her clarion and subtly expressive voice. Her pattern of tightening and loosening the melodic line was especially persuasive in slower numbers such as “Lazy” and “I Got Lost in His Arms.”

Her partner was Vince Mastro, a performer with a career divided between jazz singing and professional golf. Though more limited than Kufel in vocal range and power, Mastro brought to the mix a warm, smoky voice and an amiable showmanship that was welcome, as in his accounts of “Count Your Blessings,” “Steppin’ Out with My Baby” and “Always.”

Schubert looked to poets for the words to his 600 songs. Berlin wrote his own. Perhaps the best aspect of Sunday’s concert, then, was that both vocalists conveyed the joys of Berlin’s witty, down-to-earth lyrics, knowing exactly how to turn a smart phrase and smiling when they had done so.
- Cleveland Plain Dealer







Radio personality BILL RUDMAN takes you on a musical journey celebrating the life of Irving Berlin (1888-1989), the American icon whose 1,500 songs have become a permanent and irreplaceable part of our culture.

This multi-media concert tells a rags-to-riches story of a legendary Jewish immigrant. At the age of five, Berlin fled Czarist Russia with his family and arrived on Ellis Island, settling on New York’s Lower East Side. There he learned much more than how to speak English – he taught himself to play the piano and create his own music and lyrics.

Berlin broke through on Tin Pan Alley in 1911 with his world-wide sensation “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” and over the next 60 years there was no stopping him. You’ll hear the proof in 30 great songs, including “White Christmas,” “God Bless America,” “How Deep Is the Ocean?,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” “I Got Lost in His Arms,” “Play a Simple Melody,” “Always,” “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” and “Steppin’ Out with My Baby.”

These and other gems are performed by singers ERIN KUFEL and VINCE MASTRO, accompanied by pianist and co-host JOE HUNTER and his trio.

IRVING BERLIN: THE AMERICAN DREAM IN SONG is an inspiring tribute to a Broadway and Hollywood master. Walter Cronkite said it all: “Irving helped write the story of this country by capturing the best of who we are and the dreams that shape our lives.”

***IRVING BERLIN, THE AMERICAN DREAM IN SONG is one of a number of program/concerts presented by BILL RUDMAN and Company, under the umbrella of THE MUSICAL THEATER PROJECT. This particular program has been presented and honed in Ohio/IL venues for the past several years and is now ready to begin touring.

Calendar of performances represents performances of "The Song Is You" with Bill Rudman and Company where the music of composers from Broadway and Hollywood are celebrated.(Hoagy Carmichael, Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, James Van Huesen, Cole Porter, Dorothy Fields, Frank Loesser, Harry Warren and others)

Along with "The Song Is You" Concert Series, "A Christmas Cabaret" , "September Songs, A Cabaret About Growing Older" and "The Love Song Cabaret" are also available.


IRVING BERLIN, THE AMERICAN DREAM IN SONG,” is one of a number of concerts celebrating the great American songbook, presented by Bill Rudman and Company under the auspices of the MUSICAL THEATER PROJECT. MTP was formed in 2000 to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the unique art form known as the American musical by creating programs that educate as well as entertain people of all ages. No other organization holds this mission. The cornerstone is the nationally syndicated radio show “Footlight Parade,” distributed free of charge to public stations, but MTEP also creates a variety of other educational programs including tonight’s concert.


“A glorious celebration of our American musical heritage. Simply fabulous!” – Linda Feagler, Cleveland Magazine

“A lavish feast of music.” – Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer

“Great songs performed by an irresistible company.” – Anne DesRosiers, Jewish Community Center of Cleveland

“A delightful show – so entertaining!” – Janet Barlow, Stocker Arts Center, Elyria, Ohio

“Marvelous entertainment and terrific insights into the life and work of a legendary American.” – Ken Bloom, author of The American Songbook: The Singers, the Songwriters and the Songs

“Rudman is a seasoned broadcaster, a passionate enthusiast and a knowledgeable resource rolled into one.” – Dwight Blocker Bowers, The Smithsonian Institution


Lakeside Association, Lakeside, OH
Stocker Center, Lorain Com. College, Elyria, OH
Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland, OH
Schaumberg Ctr. Schaumberg Hts, IL
Jewish Community Center, Cleveland, OH

Sample budget for a $8000+ Lodging performance 500 miles from Cleveland, OH
Performer Salary:$500@(6-7)
Technical Directory Salary:$500
Agent Salary:$1200
Office staff:$300
Total: $8000