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The Bobby Darin Story

 Jonathan Groff                                                   Photo credit: Richard Termine



                               by Deirdre Donovan


What his life lacked in length, it made up for in height.  Singer-songwriter Bobby Darin was born on May 14th, 1936, in East Harlem and died 37 years later on December 20th, 1973, in Los Angeles following a heart operation.  But he left behind a glowing legacy that few artists can equal. 


In a dazzling homage to the artist, the popular “Lyrics & Lyricists” series at the 92nd Street Y launched its 2018 season with The Bobby Darin Story.  With two-time Tony–nominated Jonathan Groff stepping into the role of Darin, and accompanied by vocalists David Pittu, George Salazar, Elena Shaddow, and Stephanie Styles in various roles, it was a stellar event.


Stephanie Styles & Jonathan Groff.


The audience was treated to the artist’s big hits in this two-act show, including “Beyond the Sea,” “Splish-Splash,” “Mack the Knife,” and “Dream Lover.”  The program also offered some songs that had deep sentimental value to the singer like ”18 Yellow Roses” (Darin repeatedly sent yellow roses to his future mother-in-law when courting Sandra Dee) and “If I Were a Carpenter” (his last major hit). 


Groff did double duty as narrator and performer, shepherding the audience through the ups and downs of Darin’s life and career.  He, offered juicy anecdotes from every period of his life and then seamlessly segued into his well-known—and less known-- songs.  Remarkably, Darin wrote 160 songs in his short life span and put his signature on many staples of his day.


And his childhood?  Darin was raised by his maternal grandmother, whom he believed was his real birth mother.  He would only learn the truth at age 32 when his so-called sister, “Nina,” revealed to him that she was his mother.  Darin never learned his father’s name, as his tight-lipped mother kept it forever from her famous son.


If his family history had shadows, so did his physical health.  Darin had bouts of rheumatic fever as a child, which seriously damaged his heart.  The doctor’s prognosis for him was grim:  He believed that his young patient would be dead by age 15.


But Darin wasn’t pushing up daisies on his 15th birthday.  He would live another 22 years and become one of the most important pop stars in the musical world.  He lived, in fact, like the Sword of Damocles hung over his head.  And he dove headlong into his music, whether it was rock and roll, pop, jazz, folk, swing, country music—or you-name-it.  His musical talent manifested itself in other ways too.  He played a number of instruments—and performed on the small and big screen.  Little wonder he made a name for himself in the 50s and 60s.


Groff left no stone unturned.  He hop-scotched from year to year, and decade to decade.  He told the audience that the singer, born Walden Robert Cassotto, changed his name after driving past a partially-lit neon sign for the Mandarin Hotel.  The first three letters—M-A-N—were missing, and there staring him in the eye was his new name in lights.


Groff also shared the nitty-gritty about Darin’s romance and eventual marriage to Sandra Dee.  Yes, it was love at first sight.  And, yes, they met during the production of Come September and married on December 1, 1960.  They would become the proud parents of Dodd Mitchell Darin on December 16th, 1961.  And they divorced in 1967, largely because of Darin’s consuming passion for showbiz. 


Darin had a political bent to his personality too.  He campaigned and traveled with Robert F. Kennedy during his presidential bid in 1968, and was at the Ambassador Hotel when Kennedy was assassinated.


David Pittu, Elena Shaddow, Jonathan Groff, Stephanie Styles, George Salazar


Like all the musical biographies in the “Lyrics & Lyricists” series, The Bobby Darin Story was part concert, part documentary, and part multi-media event (superb projections by Dan Scully).  The performers, backed up by the creative team, served up delicious morsels of Darin’s story and songs, allowing the audience to glimpse the human being behind the legend.  Producer Ted Chapin, in a program note, dubbed Darin “a true original—multi-faceted, ambitious and driven.”


If the Bobby Darin Story is a sampling of what’s ahead in the Lyrics & Lyricists series for 2018, then theatergoers should start booking their tickets for the next show, Lenny’s Lyricists, February 24-26.  Who was it that said, “the best is yet to come?”


Lyrics & Lyricists, The Bobby Darin Story

January 20th through 22nd.

At the 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan.

For more information on Lyrics & Lyricists, phone 212 415-5500 or visit

Running time:  2 hours with one intermission.


Future L&L programs

Learn more before the show at this class from 92Y’s School of Music

Bernstein and Song

Sun, Feb 18, 2018, 2:30 pm, $45

Coming up in 2018


Mar 24, 25, 26

Irving Berlin: American

Noah Racey: Artistic Director

Aaron Gandy: Music Director

Holly Butler; Stephen DeRosa; Danny Gardner; Richard Riaz Yoder: Vocals


May 5, 6, 7

Lynn Ahrens: A Lyric Life

Jason Danieley: Artistic Director

Mary-Mitchell Campbell: Music Director


Jun 2, 3, 4

Frank Loesser: Lyricist

David Loud: Artistic Director

Noah Racey, Director