Theatre Royal: Who’s Sorry Now?
WRITER/ Director Cathal McCabe’s Sunday matinee productions are proving a big hit with older audiences. His ‘Great Singalong Songbook’ productions of big-name fifties and sixties Hollywood stars continue to attract big Sunday afternoon attendances with its story and hits mix that is clever, informative and always entertaining.
Today’s ‘Who’s Sorry Now’ carries the meshed storylines of fifties mega-stars Connie Francis and Bobby Darin. The late fifties and early sixties finally saw a less-censored Hollywood, improvement in the economy and young people finally had some limited money to spend on records. While the fifties were a decade early for me, my older brothers and sister were great pop fans and I grew up listening to megastar Connie Francis’s string of hits like ‘Lipstick on your Collar’ and ‘Stupid Cupid’, along with Bobby Darin’s wonderful interpretations of songs such as ‘Beyond the Sea’, ‘Dream Lover’ and the absolutely definitive version of ‘Mack the Knife’.
Behind the tinseltown happy days storylines conjured up by pop magazines, McCabe lays bare the real story of two stars that were born into poverty and really struggled to make it. Connie Francis recorded nine records that bombed before she came to the last record of her ten-record-contract before striking recording gold. At what was to have been her final recording session for MGM on October 2, 1957, she recorded a cover version of the 1923 song ‘Who’s Sorry Now?’ Francis recorded it at the insistence of her controlling father, who was convinced it would be a hit because it was a song adults already knew and one that teenagers would dance to if it had a contemporary arrangement.
‘When he learned that Darin had suggested the two elope after one of her shows, he ran Darin out of the building at gunpoint and warned him never to see his daughter again.’
Bobby Darin’s career was remarkably similar. A string of flops before the mother of a friend suggested ‘Splish Splash’ as a title. The single was Darin’s first successful entry into rock and roll and sold more than a million copies. More success followed and Darin’s great talent in interpretation was quickly recognised.
In 1959, Darin wrote and recorded ‘Dream Lover’—a ballad that became a multi-million seller. With it came financial success and the ability to demand more creative control of his career and the facility to record more than rock and roll. His next single, ‘Mack the Knife’, from Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera, went to No. 1 for nine weeks, sold two million copies, and won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1960. Darin was also voted the Grammy Award for Best New Artist that year, and ‘Mack The Knife’ has since been honoured with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Baritone Damien Smith absolutely nails this classic and cries of ‘more’ fill the theatre. More classics follow… ‘Things’, ‘Beyond the Sea’, ‘Danke Schoen’, ’18 Yellow Roses’ etc, etc.
Early in her career, Francis was introduced to Bobby Darin, then an up-and-coming singer and songwriter. Darin’s manager arranged for him to help write several songs for her. Although Bobby and Connie fell in love, Francis’ strict Italian father separated the couple whenever possible. When he learned that Darin had suggested the two elope after one of her shows, he ran Darin out of the building at gunpoint and warned him never to see his daughter again.
Connie always said that the decision not to marry Bobby was “the worst decision of my life”. Four failed, short-lived marriages later followed; Connie’s heart lay elsewhere. Bobby became politically active in the sixties and was standing next to Bobby Kennedy when he was assassinated.
Darin suffered from poor health. He was frail as an infant and suffered recurring bouts of rheumatic fever that left him with a seriously weakened heart. In January 1971, he had two artificial valves implanted in his heart and spent most of that year recovering. During the last few years of his life, he was often administered oxygen during and after his performances.
In 1973, after failing to take antibiotics to protect his heart before a dental visit, Darin developed sepsis that affected one of his heart valves. On the evening of December 19, a five-person surgical team worked for over six hours to repair his damaged heart. Shortly after the surgery ended in the early morning hours of December 20, 1973, Darin died in the recovery room without regaining consciousness. He was 37 years old.
Connie subsequently overcame many personal tragedies, including a hotel rape that left her severely depressed. Despite vocal and other problems, she continued to record and in December 2017 released her most recent autobiography, ‘Among My Souvenirs’.
An interesting, informative and entertaining afternoon on the Mall.