2018 Season of 92Y Lyrics & Lyricists starts off with a sensational tribute to Bobby Darin starring Jonathan Groff and directed by Broadway’s Alex Timbers.

by Linda Amiel Burns


You would have thought that you were attending a Broadway show’s out of town tryout when the curtain went up on The Bobby Darin Story, the initial offering at the 92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricist 2018 season on the weekend of January 20-22. Jonathan Groff entered singing Bobby’s big hit “Beyond The Sea” and we were off and running on a thrilling ride. Ted Chapin, the new Artistic Director of this long running and revered series, produced this concert and certainly started things off with a bang!

Bobby Darin was born Walden Robert Cassotto on May 14, 1936 in NY and died at the age of 37 on December 20, 1973. The story of his rise to fame is fascinating, filled with excitement and drama. Bobby was multi-talented, a singer, songwriter, played many instruments, acted in films and television and performed jazz, pop, rock and roll, folk, swing, and country music. Unfortunately he had rheumatic fever as a child and was told by doctors that he would not live past age 15.  This might be one of the reasons that he was so ambitious and driven to succeed. It is interesting how he got his show biz name. While driving he passed a sign for the Mandarin Hotel with the first three letters missing, and thus Bobby Cassotto became Bobby Darin.

Producer Ted Chapin gathered an amazing cast and production team for this dazzling show led by Broadway director Alex Timbers (Lynn Spector, Associate Director) who gave it depth as well as excitement. Singer Jonathan Groff couldn’t have been a better Bobby Darin as he acted and sang the roll to perfection.  Andy Einhorn and Andrew Resnick served as Music Directors (Alex Ratner associate MD) and the excellent band consisted of Brian Pareschi on trumpet, Todd Groves on woodwinds, Jim Hershman on guitar, Michael Thurber on bass, and Jared Schonig on drums. The cast of singers who played various roles were terrific: David Pittu, George Salazar, Elena Shaddow and Stephanie Styles. Giving the production added warmth and professionalism was Dan Scully’s marvelous projections as well as Chase Brock’s musical staging.

This musical biography included many of Bobby’s great hits “Beyond The Sea,” “Mack The Knife,” “Splish Splash,” “Dream Lover” and others that illustrated different parts of his career.  When the record company wanted Bobby to record only rock n’ roll songs, he said no and decided to do an album of standards giving them a new twist like “(Up a) Lazy River”, “I Found a Million Dollar Baby” and “That’s All” that reached the top of the charts.

In 1962 on his first film was Come September, (winning a Golden Globe Award) he met teenage movie star Sandra Dee. He told her immediately that he was going to marry her but had to woo her very protective mother. In order to win Mama over, he sent flowers every day, thus his song “18 Yellow Roses” was performed.  Several important events contributed to Darin’s later downward spiral.  He and Sandra divorced as he was on the road a lot. Bobby worked for Robert Kennedy and was there the night that he was killed at the Ambassador Hotel, and finally he learned that his real mother was really his sister and that he had been lied to all of his life. These events deeply affected him and thus began a long period of seclusion. His first recording after a long absence was “If I Was a Carpenter” by Tim Hardin.

Bobby wrote over 160 songs and many lesser known gems like “Things,” “Rainin’ and “I Am” were included in the program.  There were many great moments in this show and wonderful singing and musical arrangements, but a particular highlight was when Jonathan Groff took the stage at the end to sing Bricusse and Newley’s “Once in a Lifetime.”  This song represented Darin’s return to the stage after a long absence, finally doing what he loved. He continued to perform even as his health was failing, taking oxygen before and after each show. Sadly he died during heart surgery at the age of 37 and the moving “The Curtain Falls” was sung to close this extraordinary show. The entire cast came on stage for the encore singing “As Long As I Am Singing” – a song that summed up Bobby’s life as this talented entertainer loved and thrived when  he was on stage and performing in nightclubs in front of audiences.

This show drew a packed house and at the end the crowd jumped to their feet, giving the cast a standing ovation that doesn’t always happen at L & L. Congratulations to everyone involved in this remarkable show, and if this is only the first concert in this five-part series, we can only imagine what the rest of the season will be like. Fasten your seat belts, it is going to be a fabulous ride!

Photos: Richard Termine


The next show will be Feb. 24-26 Lenny’s Lyricists.
For more info and tickets – visit: www.92Y.org/lyrics or 212 415-5500.