The Simon & Garfunkel Story
Reviewed – 23rd July 2018
“Warson’s fluid guitar picking enhances the authenticity and allows the purity of the voices to shine through”
For some, it feels like it is the end of an era as Paul Simon begins winding up the final leg of his ‘Homeward Bound – The Farewell Tour’. At seventy-six, and after five decades of writing songs that have become part of the fabric of people’s lives, he describes bringing his performing career to a natural end as “a little unsettling, a touch exhilarating and something of a relief”. Of his many concert appearances over the years he is most fond of the reunion gig in Central Park, New York with his partner and childhood friend Art Garfunkel in 1981. It was a homecoming that served as a reminder of the duo’s unparalleled achievements, and the recreation of this event is the highlight of “The Simon & Garfunkel Story” currently enjoying a nationwide tour.
Dean Elliott’s show is a timely tribute to the two young boys from New York who went on to become the most successful music duo of all time. Given that they had one of the most fractious relationships in music, it should come as no surprise to learn that Simon and Garfunkel almost didn’t make it beyond their time as a rock ’n’ roll duo named ‘Tom and Jerry’. And like with ‘The Beatles’, it is sometimes hard to remember how short lived the partnership was. By 1970 it was all over.
This act ably captures the musical essence. Philip Murray Warson as Paul Simon and Charles Blyth as Art Garfunkel make an accomplished duo. Both possess the vocal strength needed to pull off the material, and the harmonies are spot on. Opening with ‘The Sound of Silence’ all the old favourites are there. The most haunting moments accompany the sparser numbers, such as ‘For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her’ and ‘Cathy’s Song’. Warson’s fluid guitar picking enhances the authenticity and allows the purity of the voices to shine through.
After a while, though, it is a bit like being with old friends who have lost their sparkle. Admittedly this is a tribute act, and nobody is pretending that the charisma and the chemistry of the original could, or should, be replicated. That is not the point. Yet there is a distinct lack of theatricality to the show. The highs and lows of their compelling story are flattened by a monotone, and mainly humourless, delivery of facts between the musical numbers.
The second act does step up a gear, providing many uplifting moments culminating in the iconic ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’. Blyth begins with a whispering falsetto, and later soars, effectively mirroring Art Garfunkel’s performance, while Warson watches from the wings as Paul Simon would have done. It is often the case that artists produce their most heart-stirring material at the height of their turbulence. Simon would come to regret insisting that Garfunkel provide the vocals for that particular song. “Many times on a stage” he once said, “when I’d be sitting off to the side and Artie would be singing Bridge, people would stomp and cheer when it was over, and I would think, ‘That’s my song, man’”
The audience did stomp and cheer, deservedly so; but for me, I just wish that we could have seen some of those troubled waters in the performances.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Betty Zapata
The Simon & Garfunkel Story
Lyric Theatre and touring