Groff Photo credit: Richard
by Deirdre Donovan
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.”
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?”
& Lyricists, The Bobby Darin Story
20th through 22nd.
the 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan.
more information on Lyrics & Lyricists, phone 212 415-5500 or visit
time: 2 hours with one intermission.
Learn more before the show at this class from 92Y’s School of
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
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
Mary-Mitchell Campbell: Music Director
Jun 2, 3, 4
Frank Loesser: Lyricist
David Loud: Artistic Director
Noah Racey, Director