Producers: Maple Tree Entertainment Ltd
Directors: David Beck and Dean Elliott
Musical Supervision: Dean Elliott
Reviewer: Janet Jepson
No one should mess around with Simon and Garfunkel music, the unique mix of folk/rock ballad that is associated with the duo has a style that is all its own. For a teen of the Seventies who crossed the ‘troubled water’ of ‘O’ and ‘A’ level revision using their tracks as a supporting ‘bridge’, it is pure sacrilege to change anything about the music. It has to be said that Dean Elliott (as Paul Simon) and Joe Sterling (as Art Garfunkel) from Maple Tree Entertainment Ltd perform all the hits excellently, and they do physically resemble their alter egos, but for the true S and G fan, there is a little something missing. The raw feeling, emotion and somehow laidback style just isn’t there. Many of the numbers are performed at too fast a pace, somewhat destroying the lingering mental images that are created when listening to these tracks on the original albums.
All that said though, the 50th Anniversary Tour of The Simon and Garfunkel Story is definitely worth seeing, because the life story of the famous duo is so well told. The audience is treated to a wonderful slideshow of pictures of the pair, ranging from childhood snaps, school photographs, artfully-posed leisure photographs and performance stills. Interspersed with these, the large screen has images of current events and even advertising features of the eras, as the performers tell the story of Simon and Garfunkel’s rise to fame from their early days at school in Queens, New York, until their personal relationship deteriorated and they sadly drifted apart in 1970.
Their first hit is there – ‘Hey Schoolgirl’, which sold 100,000 copies in 1957 when they were just 16. The lads were known as Tom and Jerry then, in an effort to hide their Jewish sounding names that the record producer felt might alienate audiences, and were heavily influenced by the Everly Brothers vocal harmony sounds. There were lulls in their joint career, and quite a bit of time spent apart working on separate projects – who can forget Art’s amazing ‘Bright Eyes’ track for the film Watership Down, and Paul’s ‘Kathy’s Song’ written for his English girlfriend when he was working in the UK? But together they produced great albums such as ‘The Sounds of Silence’ (1966), ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’ (1966), ‘The Graduate’ (1968), ‘Bookends’ (1968) and their final compilation ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ in 1970, which incredibly, was the biggest selling album of 1970, 1971 and 1972. All the best tracks are performed in this tribute show, and the audience hum and clap along to greats such as ‘Homeward Bound’ (allegedly written by Paul Simon while waiting for a train at Widnes railway station), ‘I am a Rock’, ‘Scarborough Fair’, ‘Feeling Groovy’, ‘America’ (penned, we’re told, on a Greyhound bus), ‘Cecilia’ and ‘Baby Driver’. There’s a live backing band of Murray Gardiner on electric guitar and keyboards, Leon Camfield on bass, and Josh Powell on drums. Although they are all wearing smart black jumpers and ties, they somehow feel too formal for the folksy feel of the real Simon and Garfunkel.
The lighting is brilliant, with coloured washes combined with smoke effect to change the atmosphere, and rotating spots pinning the performers in circles of moving light. The costumes of the singers change along with the eras being portrayed, but they do always appear to be a little too over-dressed for the casual image of the real pair.
Go see the show, it’s great to experience the music being performed again, but true fans do need to go along with an open mind. All the tracks are well-performed renditions, but the whole thing is maybe too formal, lacking in the folk quality and apparent simplicity of Simon and Garfunkel’s gentle music. The performance addresses the lament of “I am just a poor boy. Though my story’s seldom told” by telling the story well, but as they race through the lyrics of ‘The Boxer’ and ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ at breakneck speed, it is difficult to not feel a little somehow cheated.
Reviewed on: Sunday 6 September 2015