With lead vocals by a dozen Broadway stars, Yellow Sound Label has announced the release of the debut album of eleven original songs by award-winning songwriter and Berklee College of Music Professor Michael Wartofsky, in digital, streaming and physical formats, today, Friday, January 4. “All the Possibilities: Broadway Sings Wartofsky” features interpretations by some of the Broadway community’s most breathtaking artists, including in alphabetical order: Farah Alvin (It Shoulda Been You), Kate Baldwin (Hello, Dolly!), Darius de Haas (Shuffle Along), Annie Golden (Violet), Aisha Jackson (Frozen), Marcus Paul James (In the Heights), Michael Roberts McKee (Mamma Mia), Daniel Quadrino (Newsies), Shayna Steele (Hairspray), Katie Thompson (Giant), Allie Trimm (13), and Alysha Umphress (On The Town). The album is available on iTunes HERE and the physical CD may be ordered from www.yellowsoundlabel.com.
The project is notable as a dynamic collaboration between the Berklee and Broadway communities. Produced by Sean Patrick Flahaven (President, Concord Theatricals, and a producer on the original cast recording of Hamilton) and with music direction by veteran Broadway conductor and Berklee faculty member Eric Stern (Shrek, Parade, Xanadu), the album features new arrangements by Wartofsky, his Berklee colleague Jeri Sykes, and several recent alums. The Broadway artists learned the songs from demo vocals recorded by Wartofsky’s students in the Berklee Theater Arts Collaborative. The album’s wealth of instrumental ensembles feature faculty, alumni and current student musicians, recorded on campus by faculty engineer Chad Blinman. In New York, Berklee alumni, pianist Mike Moise (Hamilton) and drummer Elena Bonomo (Waitress tour), joined Broadway bassist Randy Landau and guitarist John Benthal to back up Annie Golden and Farah Alvin at Avatar Studios, which is coincidentally now Berklee’s PowerStation. The rest of the album’s vocals were recorded at Yellow Sound Lab in New York by Matthias Winter, who also mixed the entire album.
“Michael’s memorable tunes, fresh harmonies and infectious grooves made the whole experience buoyant and joyful,” recalls Mr. Stern. Dean Pitchford, lyricist of Footloose and Fame, calls the album “a joy. A dazzling array of artists deliver these sometimes witty, sometimes touching, always engaging songs in a crisply produced and wonderfully sung compilation.” Bookwriter/composer/lyricist Kirsten Childs, whose Yellow Sound Label original cast recording of Bella: An American Tale is in the works, praises the “haunting elegance” of Wartofsky’s album, calling him “a storyteller with a bold, imaginative voice.” Fellow theater composer and Yellow Sound Label recording artist Lynne Shankel admires Wartofsky’s “sophisticated harmonic sense” and “spirited and driving” melodies.
“My goal was for this album to pulsate with humanity,” explains Wartofsky. “Sonically, the tracks are unified as much by rhythmic guitar as much as by the piano. In addition to the percussion, strings and horns, I hope this gives the album a contemporary songwriter vibe.” Wartofsky chose to title his album after one of his most-performed works, but also to represent the diverse “songs of secret longings, devious schemes, and hope in the face of loss.” Wartofsky studied and later taught at the NYU/Tisch Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program, where he met Mr. Flahaven. Wartofsky is the composer/lyricist of The Man In My Head (NY Musical Theater Festival, 2006) and the composer of Cupcake (Club Cafe, Boston 2012).
In 1998, he launched his first Musical Theater Writing class at Berklee, and established an undergraduate minor in Musical Theater Writing in 2015 alongside Mr. Stern and Ms. Sykes, who lead theatre training programs in Musical Direction and Orchestration, respectively. Wartofsky won a Distinguished Faculty Award in 2018, and over a half-dozen of Wartofsky’s recent graduates have been admitted to the prestigious MFA program at NYU.
While he met some of the album’s singers through his time at NYU, Wartofsky met others through a comedy of errors, such as when his recording session was double-booked with a project featuring members of the original Hairspray cast. “The silver lining was getting to meet Shayna Steele,” who, as it turned out, had done several gigs with Wartofsky’s former student, saxophonist Grace Kelly. “I think because I knew Grace, Shayna considered me legit, and she agreed to sing on my album!” Wartofsky met Ms. Umphress not because she is an alumna of The Boston Conservatory, but because his cousin had dated her best friend.
On the album’s first track, Alysha Umphress captures a melancholic yearning for a departed loved one in the surprisingly uptempo “In a Dream,” with strings and horns arranged by Ms. Sykes who also plays tenor sax on the record.
Kate Baldwin lends her mellifluous vocals to the album’s title song “All the Possibilities,” featuring lyrics by Kathleen Cahill. Presented in concert on numerous occasions by The Broadway Boys, the song previously made the annual top 25 list on ContemporaryMusicalTheater.com.
Darius de Haas, who shines on a new and enhanced arrangement of “Real Thing” from the 2006 NYMF show The Man In My Head, calls the one-man musical “truly one of the most musically and artistically rewarding, and challenging, projects I’ve ever done.” Wartofsky’s score was singled out as “endlessly inventive” and “a percolating delight” by Rob Weinert-Kendt on Broadway.com.
The album features two songs Wartofsky composed for Cupcake, a musical “destined to be a seaside resort classic” according to the Boston Spirit blog. With lyrics by David Reiffel and book by Mr. Reiffel and Bradley Seeman, “The Lament of the Real Estate Agent” is brought to life by Farah Alvin, who found the song “full of delicious comedic twists and turns.”
Allie Trimm and Michael Roberts McKee pair up for the album’s only duet, “I’ve Got a Crush,” as a reference librarian and a hunky lifeguard who share more than just a cupcake obsession.
Annie Golden took a break from filming “Orange is the New Black” to give her unique spin to the demented “Just Between Us,” previously a finalist in the Ken Davenport Songwriting Contest and also featuring lyrics by Mr. Reiffel. “Having grown up obsessed with the movie Hair, working with Annie was a dream come true,” says Wartofsky.
Aisha Jackson, currently the stand-by for Anna in Broadway’s Frozen, says she loved the semi-comic “My Kiss” so much that she used it soon after for an audition, and she got a callback. She jokes that she “didn’t book the job, but they loved the song!”
Marcus Paul James contributes a raw, alternative-rock version of “Without Your Love,” a song singled out by theaterscene.net in 2013 for its “full-bodied ardor” and which had been previously recorded by Boston Conservatory alumnus John Michael Dias (Jersey Boys, Beautiful) on his 2014 album Write This Way.
Katie Thompson’s deeply moving interpretation of “Never Far From Home” closes the album. The song appeared in a 2013 revue of the same name, with script by Lydia Diamond (Stick Fly), at Central Square Theater in Cambridge, MA. The Boston Globe called the title song one of the revues “best numbers.”
1. In A Dream Alysha Umphress
2. My Kiss Aisha Jackson
3. All the Possibilities Kate Baldwin
4. No One Quite Like You Daniel Quadrino
5. I’ve Got a Crush Michael Roberts McKee and Allie Trimm
6. Without Your Love Marcus Paul James
7. Just Between Us Annie Golden
8. Real Thing Darius de Haas
9. Halfway Shayna Steele
10. Lament of the Real Estate Agent Farah Alvin
11. Never Far From Home Katie Thompson
MICHAEL WARTOFSKY is a Professor of Songwriting at Berklee College of Music, where he established an undergraduate minor in Musical Theater Writing in 2015 and won a Distinguished Faculty Award in 2018. He composed the musicals Car Talk: The Musical!!! and Cupcake, both produced in Boston in 2012, and wrote music/lyrics for The Man in My Head starring Darius de Haas at New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) 2006. Along with David Reiffel, he was a finalist in the 2014 Davenport Musical Theater Songwriting Contest, and his song “Without Your Love” was recorded by John Michael Dias for his 2014 release Write This Way. In 2013, Michael’s songs were featured in the revue Never Far From Home at Central Square Theater with script by Broadway playwright Lydia Diamond; and in The Concert hosted by Seth Rudetsky at Second Stage in NYC. The Broadway Boys have performed “All the Possibilities,” named one of the “top 25 songs” of 2012 by ContemporaryMusicalTheatre.com. Adjunct faculty and alumnus, NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program; Founder, NOMTI (New Opera & Musical Theater Initiative); member, The Dramatist Guild. Winner, Frederick Loewe Foundation First Look Award 2009. www.michaelwartofsky.com
“Working with Michael, along with these superb vocalists and dedicated musicians, was a pleasure from start to finish. Michael’s memorable tunes, fresh harmonies and infectious grooves made the whole experience buoyant and joyful.”
Eric Stern, conductor/arranger/music supervisor of 19 Broadway shows
“Michael Wartofsky’s ‘All the Possibilities’ is a joy. A dazzling array of artists deliver these sometimes witty, sometimes touching, always engaging songs in a crisply produced and wonderfully sung compilation.”
Dean Pitchford, lyricist, Footloose, Fame, Carrie, the Musical
“How to describe the musical theatricality of Michael Wartofsky? Haunting elegance. A storyteller with a bold, imaginative voice. Hear, hear.”
Kirsten Childs, bookwriter/composer/lyricist, Bella: An American Tale, The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin
“Michael’s voice as a writer is quite unique. He has a very sophisticated harmonic sense and his melodies are at times spirited and driving and at other times lilting and haunting.”
Lynne Shankel, YSL recording artist, composer of Bare, music supervisor, Allegiance
“My goal was for this album to pulsate with humanity. Thematically, I infused the album with songs of secret longings, devious schemes, and hope in the face of loss. Sonically, the tracks are unified as much by rhythmic guitar as much as by the piano. In addition to the drums, strings and horns, I hope this gives the album a contemporary songwriter vibe.”
Michael Wartofsky, composer/lyricist
“It really takes skill to write funny music and this song is so full of delicious comedic twists and turns. You paint such a clear picture of this person as it’s composed, all I had to do was sing it and trust the material.”
Farah Alvin, on recording “The Lament of the Real Estate Agent” from Cupcake
“Singing ‘My Kiss’ got me a callback! I didn’t book the job but they loved the song!”
Aisha Jackson (currently standby for Anna in Frozen), after recording “My Kiss”
“I can trace my love of Broadway singers to that first overwhelming sensation of hearing my mother’s Funny Girl original cast LP at the age of three. I would have become a singer if lack of talent hadn’t gotten in the way. Instead, I grew up to discover the vicarious thrill of writing songs for others.”
Michael Wartofsky, composer/lyricist