Dubbed by many as the greatest song writing duo of all time, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel came on to the scene in the early sixties when their previous flop ‘The Sound of Silence’ suddenly became a hit. The school friends had a string of chart-toppers, despite a tempestuous relationship which saw the duo part company in 1970. These all feel like the right ingredients for a jukebox musical, in the form of The Simon and Garfunkel Story, which has now extended its West End residency following performances across the globe.
There’s not a great deal of ‘story’ but plenty of Simon and Garfunkel in the concert like staging, between each song there are little snippets and anecdotes, which help give the audience some context. But don’t mistake these for a plot, writer and director, Dean Elliott is clearly a fan of the music, as that is what is given highest priority, and why not?
Accompanying the music is a fairly understated video screen, with design by Josh Woods, which is a mix of newsreels, photographs, an occasional animation, and of course that famous scene from The Graduate. During the already haunting ‘Scarborough Fair’ the screen shows some of the most iconic and affecting photographs of the decade, the overall effect is captivating.
Simon and Garfunkel are played by Philip Murray Warson and Charles Blythe respectively. While they sing as the famous duo, they speak as themselves and directly to the audience, telling little jokes and giving instructions on the audience hand clapping; which seems to be a mandatory requirement for every track. This informal set up actually works incredibly well, it invites the audience into the experience and helps the fourth wall dissipate in the sharing of music.
Warson and Blythe don’t impersonate Paul and Art in the typical way of a tribute act, but there’s no mistaking who they are supposed to be, from the turtle necks to the hair, this is as close to the real thing as we’re going to get, and not forgetting the stunning vocals, with the harmonies on point. During Blythe’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ the audience collectively held their breath as each note surpassed the last.
An enthusiastic band support Warson and Blythe. It was all too tempting to ignore everything else and focus on Adam Smith, Leon Camfield and Mat Swales who appeared to be having the time of their lives, completely swept up in those classic folk-rock numbers.
In fact, we were all swept up in the music, and indeed The Simon and Garfunkel Story. Unsurprisingly, there was many a hardcore fan in the audience and they seemed far from disappointed, while those of us who wouldn’t necessarily place ourselves in the same camp, found ourselves clapping along enthusiastically and perhaps realising just what we’ve been missing out on.