When the cast of Dream Lover finished their very first full read through of the script, they were so moved by the story, they were in tears. This wasn’t surprising news to Dodd Darin.
“I had heard that feedback and I’m not surprised. The script is really powerful … and the use of certain songs and their placement is really well done. I think people are going to need their tissues,” said Dodd.
Dodd Darin is the son of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee and the world premiere musical Dream Lover is the story of his father (played on stage by David Campbell). To younger generations, Dodd’s mother Sandra Dee is probably better known as the subject of Rizzo’s cheeky song ‘Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee’ in the hit musical and movie, Grease.
Dodd has overseen the licensing and music catalogue of his father, as well as the name and likeness usage of his mother, for the past twenty-five years. Being approached by an Australian team to write a musical about Bobby Darin’s life was not an unusual request for Dodd.
“It’s not a new phenomena. I wrote my book in ’94 (Dream Lovers: The Magnificent Shattered Lives of Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee) and prior to that even, I’d been in a deal with Warner Brothers to do a film story. The process of them bringing in writers and researchers I was used to. We went through a lot of writers and drafts of scripts for the film. My mom and I, and people in my dad’s life, family and friends, all sat down and contributed. But I must say, the script we have now for the musical is really great. It’s hard to be objective, but I really think it’s great. The writers got a good take on the story,” said Dodd, who was also asked to contribute to the script of the musical, Dream Lover.
It’s been forty-two and a half years since Bobby Darin passed away, but Dodd still thinks of his father every day.
“I’ll be honest with you – not a day goes by I don’t think about him in some way or another. He was very special. I’m very excited about this musical.”
Dodd says the story of his father’s life is almost fictional: a sick young boy who wasn’t supposed to reach adulthood, who grew up in poverty in the Bronx without ever knowing who his real father was and who received a terrible surprise revelation about his own mother late in life.
“ … Yet he kept going and he kept achieving and he kept making great music and great films,” explained Dodd.
“This guy is sick as a boy, doesn’t really know his family, everything is against him, but he becomes a superstar. He marries one of America’s biggest film actresses, but then he dies tragically at age 37.”
Dodd expects audiences to be entertained and touched by the story of his father, but there’s something else he hopes Dream Lover will do.
“Maybe it sounds a little silly, or clichéd, but I really do hope people, and mainly young people, come away from it inspired. Because at the end of the day, I really do hope young people who don’t even know who Bobby Darin is – he’s been gone 42 and a half years – walk away and they say, ‘Wait a minute – this little guy from the Bronx, he wasn’t really good looking, he had all kinds of hard knocks against him, he had all the cards against him – he did it! He actually made it’.”
Dodd also wants audiences to appreciate the talent of his father, Bobby Darin, as one of the great entertainers of American popular music.
“You know, Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra, they lived a whole life. For 70 odd years or more they were in the public life. My dad died at 37 and his public life was just 15 years. I hope the public appreciate his talent and give him the respect that eluded him because he was here so briefly and died so young.”
While there are no immediate plans for Dream Lover beyond this world premiere season in Sydney, Dodd Darin hopes the musical will ultimately make its way to Broadway and admits he will be disappointed if it doesn’t.
“If the audience reacts well to it, my hope is that it goes to London’s West End for a time, then on to the United States. I have high hopes that it can. I think the music itself is timeless and his story is compelling. I think the fact that it’s starting in Australia is great. The Gordon Frost people have been great and I can tell that they care … I’ve been around this all my adult life and I can tell when people care. It’s more than just another project.”
Dodd Darin will be in the audience on opening night this week.
“I can’t wait to see the public reaction to it. It’s nerve-wracking, its stressful, its exciting – it’s all that. It’s kind of like giving birth to a new thing, so I’m excited!”
The first preview performance received a standing ovation and the early reaction from audiences has been overwhelming positive.
Dream Lover is currently in previews at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre, ahead of the official opening night on Thursday 6th October.