As a musical artist, Bobby Darin was in many ways the missing link between the era of classic crooners and that of rock 'n' roll. During the span of his professional career, Darin could swing with the best of them. He was a jazzer, a folkie, a singer of pop standards, and a hit-making rocker.
All aspects of the late, great, New York born star gets covered in the June 16 performances of “Darin: Bobby’s Biggest Hits Live!” at Theatre At The Center in Munster.
There are parallels between the careers of the real Darin and Christopher Kale Jones, who portrays him in this relatively new national touring production created by Michael Ingersoll as part of the steadily growing "Artists Lounge Live" series (artistsloungelive.com). Both were raised by show biz mothers, both performed as children and made their dreams of going professional a reality.
No stranger to theater patrons, the Hawaiian-born Jones came to fame playing pop music icon Frankie Valli in the New York production of “Jersey Boys." He later became a co-founding member of the Under The Streetlamp vocal group of PBS-TV fame. His middle name is Hawaiian and pronounced "Ka-Lay" and not like the leafy green veggie with which it shares its spelling.
"Michael (Ingersoll) and I go back a long way. We were both actors in 'Jersey Boys,' in the first national touring company following the Broadway production," Jones said. "I played Frankie Valli and Michael played Nick Massi, then later branched off with a couple of other guys to do Under The Streetlamp for about seven years. Michael left to start his Artists Lounge Live series with a bunch of very talented performers who sing the musical catalogs of various artists who are no longer with us (Etta James, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland and many others). Now, here I am working with him again, doing Bobby Darin."
While Jones still fills in here and there in emergency situations with Streetlamp, he is now wholly focused on his solo career and his new Bobby Darin show. "These Artist Lounge shows are more than just the singing of the songs; they are a tribute to the artist, telling their respective stories. Most people leave these shows knowing a lot more about the artists than they knew coming in, because we tell the stories of their lives while working through their fabulous catalog of music," he said.
Audiences get to know a bit about Jones as well during the course of the show, because stories from his own life get woven into the performance.
"For people who just know Darin's music, some of his life events may be quite surprising," said Jones. Included in the performance are facts about Darin's childhood, his chronic illness, his Hollywood career, the many turns his musical path took, his loves (Connie Francis and Sandra Dee), and his death. "Even the people familiar with Bobby's life story may be surprised with some of the songs that were also part of his career, because this production includes more than just the famous hits."
All the classic hits -- "Splish Splash," "Beyond The Sea," "Dream Lover," "Queen Of The Hop," and "Mack The Knife" -- are featured, but so are many of the overlooked and forgotten songs in the Darin repertoire like "Artificial Flowers," "Bill Bailey," "On the Street Where You Live," and "If I Were A Carpenter."
For Jones, seeing the audiences sing along with him on a Darin classic like "Mack The Knife," is a thrill. "It's that moment in the show when all of us in the room share a special bond with Bobby and with each other," he added. "It's one of those songs that seems to connect everyone."
Darin was advised to not record "Mack The Knife" by everyone around him, but followed his gut and did it anyway. Jones shares the story behind that landmark hit and other songs Darin made famous during the course of the performance which includes over 18 songs, including the surprise inclusion of a very popular song that professionally ties together Darin and Frankie Valli, making this former "Jersey Boy" star the perfect voice to bring the story and song to life.
"Bobby never recorded this particular song, but he did perform it on his hit television show," said Jones. "People enjoy the very unique way Bobby made Frankie's song his own. It's one of the highlights in the show for me personally, because it ties together these two talented entertainers I have been blessed to portray on stage."
While no performer wants to be locked into a role for their entire career, Jones sees himself doing Darin for some time to come, because of the richness of the music and the complexity of his career. "Bobby Darin was an important and influential artist who left us much too soon," Jones said. "He knew even as a child, that he would not have a very long life, so he pushed hard to accomplish a lot in the years he had, and he even surprised doctors by living several years longer than they anticipated."
The goal of this show and all the shows in Michael's 'Artist Lounge Live' series is to keep the music and the legacy of these amazingly talented and important artists alive for future generations to enjoy and appreciate, reminded Jones, who admits he was shocked to see just how many Bobby Darin fans are still out there.
"Nearly all of the shows we have done to date are sold out, so that really says something about Bobby's impact and legacy," he said.