Music and Lyrics: Paul Simon
Director: David Beck
Reviewer: Pete Benson
The Simon and Garfunkel Story is a one hundred percent top quality show. It is a bit more than a tribute band but it is not a full blown jukebox musical.
Actors Dean Elliott and Jonny Smart play Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel respectively. Smart plays the arguably less talented of the duo but he himself is bursting with talent. He captures Garfunkel’s mannerisms brilliantly, the hands on the back of hips and the bemused scanning of the auditorium when he’s not singing. Smart has superb vocal control and impeccable microphone technique as does Elliott and their voices blend together beautifully. Only in timbre are they clearly not the originals but then how could they be?
Elliot is no stranger to this musical genre having previously played Buddy Holly in the West End musical Buddy. Here Elliot carries the weight of the musical duties, as did composer Paul Simon. He plays guitar as well as singing and is credited as director and musical supervisor. Of the two of them Smart looks the most like his counterpart. Throughout the show they both dress in representational costumes of the original duo including the iconic striped shirt and beige jacket that Art sports on the Greatest Hits album.
Between them the two actors tell the story of Simon and Garfunkel from their early days as rock ‘n’ roll duo Tom and Jerry and chronologically through the various albums which are all illustrated both musically and visually. After the story reaches the demise of the duo the backing band play an instrumental medley of some of Paul Simon’s solo works. The band are top class musicians. Leon Camfield’s bass playing is outstanding but really comes into its own in Slip Sliding Away, the only solo Paul Simon song the duo sing together. On percussion is Josh Powell. The programme informs us that his first ever performance at the age of nine was Simon’s 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover. Finally jumping between kneeboards and guitar creating all the familiar riffs is Murray Gardiner.
Other than a very well selected slide back drop and the odd period setting collage of music, the show has no gimmicks and its success comes down entirely to the talent, personality and focus of its five performers, all of whom appear glad to be here. The show is well constructed, its ebb and flow and dynamics are well measured with nice moments like segueing from the beautiful minimalist acoustic Kathy’s Song into the driving full band sound of I Am A Rock.
The show culminates in the Central Park reunion gig which came ten years after the duo officially separated. Here Smarts voice is an absolute delight when he sings the iconic Simon and Garfunkel song Bridge Over Troubled Water, a song that Paul Simon insisted Art sing solo on the original recording.
This show serves as a reminder of the immense range of brilliant songs Paul Simon wrote, showing him to be a true American poet easily up there with Bob Dylan. Even now half a century later Simon and Garfunkel are still the voices of those mythical hippy happy eternal summers of the sixties.
I urge you to go and see this excellent show.
Runs until 10 January and on tour