The Simon and Garfunkel Story – Lyric Theatre, London

Director: Dean Elliott
Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty

With a shock of curly hair, and a pleasing difference in height, we see a silhouette of our two singers against a screen filled with history of the duo. As the lights lift, we see that for the next two and a bit hours our host certainly look the part, and we soon hear that they can really back it up with a fine folk/rock performance.

tell-us-block_editedThe show tells a story of Simon and Garfunkel’s rise from high school friends in Queens through to global mega-star status and beyond. It’s light (by necessity) on biographical detail and heavy on the songs – played with backing from a super live group and joined for the second half by a brass ensemble. We’re taken through the major albums, starting with Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. through to the smash of Bridge over Troubled Waters. We track a little way through their solo offerings with a well put together instrumental medley of intros (a point where the Powerpoint skills of the team are shown on the screen that crowns the stage) that showcases the diversity of these songwriters perfectly.

In the main show, choosing the famous tracks allows this show to appeal to a broad audience – this is for everyone, not just the fans. Though by including some of the lesser known songs on the albums it turns out to be surprisingly educational even to those who have been fans for years. We get little anecdotes and stories to whip through a bit of a narrative – no spoilers here, some are genuinely very good.

The performers are clearly talented, they’re a fantastic band and work really tightly together. However, maybe that’s not such a good thing here? Some of the songs have a swing and a looseness to them that give them the heart and emotion that made them global stars. With the edges squared off here, time kept strictly and with technical precision, some of that is lost. Simon and Garfunkel wrote and sung about the issues that matter to them, their experiences and cares, and pushed that out in their songs – this show is a group of very talented musicians who are just one step removed from that heart to have it come through so authentically. A very notable exception is Charles Blythe’s solo offer for Bridge over Troubled Water which is delivered with a massive depth of feeling.

This feeling extends to the whole show’s presentation. If this were in a different setting – a gig rather than a theatre show – the vibe would be a lot more relaxed. As it is, it’s a mix of songs with a little biographical info, but presented with the glossy stage accents and smiling sheen of a full on musical. A spot in between would be more accurate, getting the mix of stage show and Simon and Garfunkel performance spot on.

The musicians and leaders (both Charles Blythe and Sam O’Hanlon are trained musical theatre actors, as is the director Dean Elliott so it’s no surprise to see this influence) are more than capable of executing a more natural and relaxed show to the highest quality. Loosening up a little on stage and in the rhythms of the music will make the small but crucial difference between just “feelin’ groovy” and actually being groovy.

Tours around UK and Internationally – London dates: 2 October, 6 November, 4 December | Image: Jacqui Wilson



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