As Mark noted the next day, he's well-aware that the song, odd as it is, is from the Broadway musical Tenderloin, by Harnick & Bock, who had just won the Pulitzer Prize and Tony for Fiorello! and were about to write Fiddler on the Roof. (No doubt he got a lot of emails from folks, including me...just to make sure.) And he then posted a video of how the song was supposed to be sung.
With all due respect to Mark, with whom I rarely quibble, or even think about quibbling, he's not right about this. I watched the second video, and it largely has the same problem as with most renditions of the song. The performer sings it with a slight-touch of recognition of its true intent, but mostly he does it as an over-the-top melodrama, like it might have been performed at the turn of the century, which is the time period of the show.
(To be clear, Mark's original point was not about whether the interpretation was correct, but how on earth did someone pitch a swing version of this song to Bobby Darin. And why in heaven's name did Darrin say 'yes.' A very funny point of bewilderment for which he is entirely correct.)
But the point of interpretation did come up, and so I think it's worth addressing -- because one of the things I hate about most renditions of the terrific song is that singers get it totally wrong. Most sing it like a heart-wrenching piece (except, okay, Bobby Darin, though clearly he at least doesn't take the story-point seriously). But in the stage show, it’s actually a comic number, a satire. It’s performed by a very jaded reporter, trying to ridicule the overly-moralistic preacher and the preacher’s world that he’s doing an exposé on, and as he sings getting more and more maudlin with each verse.
I couldn’t find the Broadway cast version online, which nails the intent, as you would imagine, but here’s one of the few good and proper versions of it, sung by Walter Willison (who got a Tony nomination as best supporting actor in the original cast of Richard Rodgers’ Two by Two with Danny Kaye.) He gets the point, and milks the thing for all its over-the-top “heartbreak.” The video is also interesting because it begins with some behind-the-scenes discussion of the song by Hal Prince who produced the show, and composer Jerry Bock.
This is much more close to how the song is intended...