Friend of the podcast Rick Faugno (On the 20th Century, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) shares how he channeled his love for Bobby Darin into the creation of a new show Bobby Darin: The Musical.
I've always studied to be a triple threat, in the truest sense of the term. Growing up, I went back and forth between dance and singing lessons, adding acting lessons into the mix, as I progressed into my teens. I always wanted to try my hand at everything, out of simple curiosity and the desire to succeed in different disciplines. In other words, I wanted to be able to hang with the singing, acting or dancing crowd, without them knowing that I was also something else.
My life, from a young boy on, has been one long learning process of the craft of performing. From my first great dance teacher, Voigt Kempson, in my hometown of Sparta, New Jersey, to all the dance teachers I studied with thereafter. There have been no shortage of voice teachers, either.; and I can remember acting in plays that my mother would direct (I was her student in grade school, for a couple of years) and getting my first taste of how it felt to act.
I had the rare and good fortune of starting my professional life at the young age of 12, when I was cast as Will Rogers, Jr., in the original Broadway company of The Will Rogers Follies. It was the first time I had done a professional job and it opened my eyes to the all the things I wanted to do in this livelihood. I discovered the joys of singing, dancing and acting in a big, Broadway musical; and I wanted more.
Since then, I've done everything as a performer that one could hope to do: I acted in the straight Broadway play, Conversations With My Father, when I was a teenager; I've had small roles on TV shows, both as a kid and as an adult; I've played the leading role in a film; I was a straight-ahead dancer in the First National Tour of Fosse, and on Broadway; I've performed in multiple Broadway and regional shows, as a singer, a dancer, or an actor, either all together or separately. I've received a Best Singer award (Jersey Boys), a Fred Astaire Award (On The 20th Century) and a Best Actor award (the film Virgin Alexander). I tell people that I've had a very schizophrenic career, because I'm always going from one end of the spectrum to the other.
When I played Frankie Valli, in the original production of Jersey Boys, in Las Vegas, I partially got to realize the dream of embodying the performer who does it all. That role encompassed so many satisfying singing and acting moments and it made me want to keep working toward the ultimate goal: playing the lead in a show that covers all three disciplines...and possibly even more.
Bobby Darin is a dream role for me. It sums up my entire life in show business. I can't imagine a more complete role, both dramatically and musically, that encompasses the entire performer. Perhaps Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire would be more challenging dance-wise, but they didn't possess the singing or acting chops of Bobby Darin, nor his myriad capabilities. He could also write songs, play multiple musical instruments, do impressions, tell jokes, do comedy sketches, or be a straight actor. I hope to be able to showcase all these abilities to the same level that he did.
Bobby Darin: The Musical (working title only!) tells the incredible story of a man who lived a very brief 37 years and achieved more in his lifetime than most people would be able do in 4 or 5. He could do it all and he was the only performer whom Sammy Davis, Jr. (one of my biggest idols) wouldn't follow on stage. He was that good.
He also went through life not knowing the identity of his father and later learning that the woman whom he thought was his sister was really his mother, and the woman whom he thought was his mother, was actually his grandmother. I know, it's a lot to take in at once! The chance to be able to try my hand at interpreting this amazing performer's life, truly happens only once in a lifetime.
On August 31, at the American Airlines Theatre, upstairs, myself and my fabulous cast will be doing the very first reading presentation of this new musical. I'm very lucky to have the extraordinary Patrick Vaccariello music directing, the fantastic Logan Medland on piano and assistant music directing, a story by the prodigious Australian writers, David Mitchell and Melvyn Morrow and the brilliant Denis Jones directing. Having just worked with Denis on A Chorus Line, at the MUNY, I had a front-row seat to his remarkable vision and creativity, both as a director and a choreographer.
I'm very grateful that I get the chance to tell this fascinating story and to embody the life of this astounding man and performer. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, I will get the chance to share this new musical with all of you!
Listen to our episode about readings and workshops of new musicals here.