Dodd Darin wants the whole world to know the story of his parents: Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee.
“There’s been some significant projects in the past, but nothing got close,” said Dodd Darin.
Nothing, that is, until Dream Lover – The Bobby Darin Musical, the new musical directed by Simon Phillips and written by Frank Howson, from an original concept by John Michael Howson OAM. The musical is produced by Gilbert Theatrical and John Frost AM.
“Keeping my Dad’s legacy alive has been important to me for a long, long time now and this is the single greatest vehicle to do that. I’m humble and I’m grateful, believe me. I never thought I’d see this day where he’d be remembered like this,” said Darin.
Dream Lover tells the extraordinary story of legendary singer, songwriter and actor Bobby Darin, starring David Campbell as Bobby Darin and Hannah Fredericksen as Sandra Dee. It’s the sort of story you couldn’t make up, according to Dodd Darin.
“If you took my parents story and you removed the names and told just the story to a producer, they’d say, ‘Cheesy, over the top, could never happen, too fictional!’. And then you add the names – and these are real people, this was real life. It’s fascinating. He was a compelling person and the story is compelling,” explained Darin.
Dodd Darin has seen Dream Lover four times: three preview performances and the world premiere opening night in Sydney.
Sitting in the audience for the first time, Dodd Darin watched his family’s story – and his own – being played out on stage. I asked him about that experience.
Dodd took a deep breath and exhaled before replying, “Well, just from the top, seeing it the first time in Sydney – overwhelmed. I had obviously read the book, the script, and had discussions, but you never know! You never know, right? No-one wants to make anything average.”
While many other projects have attempted to tell the story of his father, Dodd Darin believes Dream Lover is the best.
“Finally, after many years of toiling, this man (David Campbell) and his team have got it right. It’s that simple. And you feel things. At the end of the day, you leave there entertained and the songs are in your head and you’re humming them for a couple of days, and this is what it’s about,” said Darin.
“I’m just so proud! I’m just so, in a way, relieved. I’ve been shouting, ‘Hey, remember him!’ and to see it happen and to see people react is powerful,” said an emotional Dodd, adding, “I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Dream Lover received standing ovations from the audience in every performance through the Sydney season. It’s something Bobby Darin would have loved.
“My dad lived for applause, let’s be honest. He didn’t live for booze or drugs, he lived for applause, That was the drug. If he could’ve died on stage, literally, he would have!” exclaimed Dodd Darin.
David Campbell attributes the audience response to Dream Lover to the work of the creative team.
“The standing ovations which come from the show is all to do with the family story and with the legacy. I think how Simon (Phillips) and the team have structured the show so beautifully, is that even though it’s a bio musical, it really tells the entire story, warts and all,” commented David Campbell.
Campbell is quick to explain that the standing ovations are not contrived, but rather the result of the emotion of the story.
“At the end of the show we’re not going to do a megamix of the musical and get a standing ovation by getting you all dancing in the aisles. We actually just end it the way it ends and the emotion of that lifts people up. We didn’t plan that, and it’s a thrill if it keeps happening, but we’re not going to beg for it. But that is due to the fact that this music and this story line drives the audience to where they never thought they’d go.”
While the story is beautifully told, it is also David Campbell’s portrayal of Bobby Darin that contributes to the success of Dream Lover.
“I call it getting on the Darin train. I knew that the minute I was getting to ‘Splish Splash’, I was in the zone and it was happening and Bobby is taking over, in a way – not in a method Daniel Day-Lewis way, but the energy and the spirit of this was pushing the show forward. It was a remarkable ride. Hannah (Fredericksen) and I would get to the end of the show and be like, ‘Wow, they’ve done it again. Sandra and Bobby have done it again!’.”
When I suggested David Campbell was being very humble about the intensity of his own performance, Dodd Darin agreed.
“I concur with you. My dad had a saying he’d love – ‘Dynamite!’ – when he’d do things really well and things would work. It was dynamite! … After the first preview I was watching, equally, the audience as well the show and watching reactions. It touched my heart. They’re laughing at certain times. They’re emotional at certain times. And at the end they’re on their feet. Not in a polite way – they’re feeling things. Thanks to this man – yes, the story and the music – but thanks to David and everyone involved creatively,” commented a very emotional Dodd Darin.
David Campbell said the story surprises people and audiences learn things about Bobby Darin, such as his political alignment with Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. However, it’s the emotion of the story that impacts people the most. Campbell admitted that even by the eighth performance every week of the Sydney season it still moved him. David Campbell’s own story is very similar to that of Bobby Darin, and Dodd Darin feels this is a very significant factor in Campbell’s on-stage performance.
“He (David Campbell) shared with me it makes him more empathetic to the story, made it more understandable – you’d have to walk in those shoes. It brings authenticity. It’s critical,” said Dodd Darin.
David Campbell said the more he has got to know Dodd Darin, the more similarities he has discovered. It is evident the two men share a unique kinship.
In the lead up to the Sydney season, David Campbell spent time reading about the life of Bobby Darin, warming his voice vocally each day to get into the Bobby Darin style and watching YouTube clips.
“This time around, I’m getting more insight because I know Dodd better, so I can bring more things to him (Bobby Darin) for Melbourne than I would ever have had for Sydney … Melbourne’s going to see a better production because we’ve done Sydney and I know Dodd and the family better,” said David Campbell.
David Campbell considers Dream Lover to be one of the greatest shows he has been part of during his career. However, besides performing eight shows a week on stage, David Campbell is also hosting Channel Nine’s Today Extra with Sonia Kruger and spending time with his wife Lisa and their three young children. Again, he remains humble and grounded.
“I’m not saving people’s lives here. There are people who work much harder than me and with much more important jobs than what I do. When I think of people I look up to, aside from Bobby, when I look at people in the industry that I think are successful, I’m looking at people like Hugh Jackman or The Rock. They’re juggling six or seven jobs, they’re getting up in the middle of the night and they’re training in the gym. If you want to be successful, that’s the career goal you have to set, “ said Campbell.
“Also, I have the awesome example of my father (Jimmy Barnes), who hasn’t rested in sixty years, for various reasons, but he’s driven by his career and he works hard for it. Even when he talks in his book about his addictions, none of that stopped the fact it was purely about the music and entertaining an audience. Like Bobby, he feels most comfortable on stage.”
“If that’s the example in my own life, who I am to sit around and say, ‘Oh darling, you take the kids, I can’t today, I need to take care of my voice’? My dad sings three hours screaming on stage, four to five times a week. Well, I can get up and do my job, which is a pleasure to sit on tv and interview Johnny Mathis or Guy Sebastian or talk about politics and have fun with Sonia and then do a show at night. Of course! That’s a privilege. I’m never going to turn that down,” explained Campbell.
It’s that attitude and commitment to the role by David Campbell that delivers such an extraordinary performance of Bobby Darin in Dream Lover.
“I just want to say how grateful I am for what he’s contributed and the whole team,” concluded Dodd Darin, confident the legacy of his father will now finally live on through Dream Lover.
When Melbourne audiences experience Dream Lover – The Bobby Darin Musical, there’s one word they can be confident Bobby Darin would have used to describe it: DYNAMITE!
Dream Lover – The Bobby Darin Musical opens at the Arts Centre, Melbourne this week for a limited season.
For more information and tickets: dreamlover.com.au
Venue: State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
Season: From 27 December 2017
Performance Times: Wed & Thurs 7.30pm, Fri & Sat 8pm
Matinees Tues & Wed 1pm (January) and Wed & Thurs 1pm (February),
Sat & Sun 2pm
PRICES: From $69.90*
*A transaction fee of $8.50 will be levied at purchase. A delivery fee may also apply depending on your chosen delivery method.