Dean Elliott is as plausible a Paul Simon as he was as Buddy Holly in the West End musical in which he made his name. For this tribute theatre show, he’s teamed up with Jonny Smart as Art Garfunkel, and they make a very accomplished and immensely likeable duo, both musically in the harmonies but also in the laid-back, unpretentious and almost spontaneous way in which they tell the story.
The show generates a tide of warmth and gains a standing ovation at Derby Assembly Rooms. It’s the acoustic guitar that thrills, plus the familiarity of course of all the iconic numbers like The Sound of Silence and Mrs Robinson. They’re expertly played against a background of grainy, faded, mostly black-and-white photographs that tell America’s story too in the turbulent years of the sixties and seventies. There’s a haunting quality about it all, a sadness, yearning and social conscience conveyed in images of landscape wastes, civil rights protest and rain-washed New York tenements.
This is Jonny Smart’s professional debut after leaving drama school. He perfectly captures Garfunkel’s detachment of manner and unique purity of sound, which is something almost celestial at times. Notes and words just seem to hang in the air. There’s a very authentic and exciting sound from the band of Leon Camfield, Murray Gardiner and Josh Powell. Simon and Garfunkel started out in 1957, and split in 1970. This show demonstrates just how much good music they made and how much of it we find we know
Critics have described Shakespeare as “a man for all time”: could Simon and Garfunkel be his musical equivalent?
I’m too young to have enjoyed the talented folk/rock duo in their heyday of the 1960s and 70s but once I’d heard their Concert in Central Park album in the early 1980s I was hooked. While my school pals were donning frilled shirts and getting into the whole New Romantic scene, I was contemplating “The Sound of Silence” and “Scarborough Fair”.
To see Simon & Garfunkel perform live (if they were ever to contemplate getting together again from their solo careers) would be high on my bucket list but I’m happy to have enjoyed a good second, “The Simon & Garfunkel Story” at Burnley Mechanics.
Taking the best of the tribute band genre and mixing it with powerful images and stories of the times that shaped the pair’s songwriting, “The Simon & Garfunkel Story” brings to life the lyrics and melodies that helped to shape a generation and propel the duo to fame.
Dean Elliott brings a charismatic energy to the role of Paul Simon and conveys the songwriter’s passion well while Jonny Smart’s casual mannerisms and aloof assurance create a convincing Art Garfunkel and, yes, he is greatly helped by a mop of curly blond hair and a winning smile.
A great backing band of Leon Camfield, Josh Powell and Murray Gardinar create the rhythms and counter rhyme so important to Simon & Garfunkel tracks.
It’s a fascinating tale of how two young boys from New York went on to become the world’s most successful music duo of all time, from their 1950s rock n roll days as Tom & Jerry to the legendary 1981 Central Park reunion concert, this is a show for Simon & Garfunkel fans old and new.
All the old favourites were there (as well as some early songs I was hearing for the first time), from “Mrs Robinson” to “Cecelia”, calling at all stations including “Homeward Bound” and “The Sound of Silence” and ending with the compelling “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, during which you could hear a pin drop in the theatre, and “The Boxer”.
The standing ovation at the end of this impressive show was a given as soon as the final note faded from the very first song.
Pure, clear and sincere, a loving tribute to one of the world’s greatest musical duos.
Dean Elliot as Paul Simon and Jonny Smart as Art Garfunkel perfectly captured the pair’s deft harmonies and vocal blending.
Ably accompanied by a three-piece band, Paul and Art told the story of their early friendship, starting out as pop combo Tom and Jerry as teenagers. They became darlings of the New York folk/rock scene in the early 1960s, and worked their way up to world stardom providing part of the soundtrack of that turbulent decade.
The story was woven between songs, with video projections and background images conjuring up the atmosphere of the times. Particularly effective was the juxtaposition of the sweetly winsome Scarborough Fair with footage of the Vietnam War, race riots, JFK, the KKK and peace demos.
The greatest hits were all accounted for: Sound of Silence, I Am A Rock, Homeward Bound, Mrs Robinson, Cecilia, America, Old Friends, The Boxer and the 59th St Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy). But there were lesser-known songs too, showing the breadth of the duo’s output – The Dangling Conversation was a particular gem.
A musical interlude even covered the solo years – 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Graceland and more woven into a neat package leading into a segment recalling the Central Park reunion show. But, of course, the towering moment was Bridge Over Troubled Water, an astonishing performance, particularly from Jonny Smart as Art.
A must for fans, an education to the uninitiated, this is a tribute show made with true respect for the music – and the audience
The Simon & Garfunkel Story played to a sell-out crowd at the Opera House and Caroline Moody was there.
Bridge Over Troubled Water is a huge song in anyone’s book – and to pull it off in front of a sell-out crowd, many of whom will be Simon and Garfunkel Fans, is quite something.
Hats off then to Jonny Smart who was playing the part of Art Garfunkel in The Simon & Garunkel Story at the Opera House on Saturday night – the feat being all the more remarkable for the fact that this is his first role since leaving drama school.
The other – equally good – half of the duo was Dean Elliott in the role of Paul Simon. They played all the Simon and Garfunkel favourites – Mrs Robinson, Feelin’ Groovy, Homeward Bound, A Hazy Shade of Winter – plus many more besides. They included album tracks and some lesser-known songs that got them on their way to being the global stars they became. Apart from the opening number The Sound of Silence, the first song they played was Hey Schoolgirl from 1957 – when they were both 16 and were performing as a duo known as Tom and Jerry. Even then the formula wad the same – two men, one guitar and wonderful harmonies.
The information given was chatty and informal, adding to the enjoyment of the story, rather than distracting it by providing gaps. A backdrop photo montage set of the songs in their historical context – pictures of the real Simon and Garfunkel as well as what was going on in the world, and evocative black and white pictures of New York in the 60s.
There was also an upbeat medley of music which pointed tot the tracks that the artists enjoyed as solo artists, such as Gracelend and You Can Call Me Al. Here the excellent backing musicians Murray Gardiner, Leon Camfield and Josh Powell had the stage to themselves.
Dean and Jonny also looked the part. They occasionally changed their tops to reflect the changing era – all the way through to the 80s and the famous Central Park concert in 1981.
The audience loved them – they were clapping and cheering and when they left the stage we all knew there were two songs that had not yet played. After lengthy applause, they returned for Jonny Smart’s beautiful Bridge Over Troubled Water, for which he got a standing ovation, and they ended with The Boxer, which brought a well-deserved second standing ovation.
The World Cup may have started, but the Opera House is giving us a summer to remember – with sell-outs three nights in a row (Sunday and Monday being Lee Evans).
This was an entertaining, nostalgic and uplifting evening, and not just for die-hard fans. Absolutely superb.
The Simon and Garfunkel Story is a must-see for anyone who is a fan of the musical masters.
Dean Elliott as Paul Simon and Jonny Smart as Art Garfunkel are a perfect pairing and create some really beautiful harmonies.
They are also very likeable in the laidback and unpretentious way they tell the story of two boyhood friends from Queens who grew up to become a hugely successful and world-famous act.
All the classic hits are played against a backdrop of mostly black and white images that tell their story as well as that of America’s turbulent history in the ’60s and ’70s, giving the audience a real feel of the whole environment the pair were making music in.
This is Jonny Smart’s professional debut, and he perfectly captures Garfunkel’s aloofness and pure sound, particularly in Bridge Over Troubled Water. The whole experience has a very authentic feel and the duo is excellently backed by a live band of Leon Camfield, Murray Gardiner and Josh Powell.
I must admit I’m not as much of a Simon and Garfunkel aficionado as most of the audience were, but I acquired some new favourites in The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy) and Richard Cory.
They covered all the classics, including Mrs Robinson, Cecilia and Homeward Bound, and when they ended with The Boxer they had the audience in Salisbury on their feet in appreciation
Whether you are a big not a Simon and Garfunkel fan or not, it is unlikely that anyone living through the 60s and 70s could avoiding feeling a sense of nostalgia on hearing the deeply evocative, harmonies of this highly successful duo.
Their musical roots may be lodged in the folk music traditions of the early 1960s but their poignant lyrics spanned many musical tastes and generations; evidenced by the fact that for three years Bridge Over Troubled Waters remained the best selling album ever – from 1970-72.
With impressive vocals and an obvious affection for the duo, Dean Elliott and Jonny Smart confidently trace Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s musical journey through one of American history’s most turbulent and intense periods of social change.
The Simon and Garfunkel Story is a highly-authentic musical tribute but it also gives the audience a context to the songs by linking their lives and artistic development to wider political events of the time.
The two musicians grew up literally round the corner from each other in Queens, New York, and launched their careers aged just 16 with an Everly Brother’s-influenced track called Hey, Schoolgirl. It was released in 1957 on 45rpm and 78rpm records and sold around 100,000 copies.
Using a mixture of narrative and photographs projected onto the back drop of the stage, the show then follows Simon and Garfunkel’s musical and personal progression through the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early 60s; Paul Simon’s solo voyage to Britain where he toured and penned classic numbers like Kathy’s Song and Homeward Bound; the upheaval and struggles of the American Civil Rights Movement; some experimental songs forged in the 1967 Summer of Love; and the recording of Mrs Robinson, – their well-known contribution to the film, The Graduate – which brought them worldwide fame.
With careful attention to detail, Dean and Jonny delicately capture the mood and style of each era. The poetic brilliance and sadness of the album Bookends, which reflected the fading idealistic hopes of 60s America is particularly moving. The pair’s increasingly fractured artistic relationship is also respectfully portrayed.
Though the climax of the evening, performed against the backdrop of Simon and Garfunkel’s reconciliation concert in Central Park, has to be Jonny Smart’s soaring rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water, both singers deserve equally high praise for recreating the duo’s vocal harmonies so faithfully and with enthusiasm and real sensitively.
Last night was one of those nights when you really wish you weren’t going out, a nightmare week followed by a two hour journey home. But within seconds of listening to the amazing harmonies from Dean and Jonny who appear as Simon & Garfunkel all was forgotten.
The harmonies were pitch perfect, the music captivating in its simplicity and the story, although sad, was told with warmth and feeling.
It is a story, not just a concert, and it takes you through the years from the boys age 16 to their massive hit album Bridge Over Troubled Water but the music takes precedence not the narrative. Throughout the show the screen shows film clips and photographs of the friend’s lives and articles from the era, further bringing the story to life.
When I entered the theatre I could only remember 3 Simon and Garfunkel songs but it soon became apparent I knew countless tracks many of them classics such as Hazy Shade of Winter, Mrs Robinson, Scarborough Fair and The Sound of Silence. The show ended with a rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water so spellbinding that it made shivers go down my spine, followed by The Boxer. A well-deserved standing ovation followed.
We had a great evening, the singing was fantastic and very authentic and there was a great mix of slow melodic songs and upbeat folk style tunes that had the audience clapping and foot tapping. Dean Elliot plays a great Paul Simon as does Jonny Smart as Garfunkel, especially as it is his professional debut.
The Simon and Garfunkel Story is a great night out, certainly for fans of the duo – but for anyone who enjoys music. It’s also visually very exciting. Dean and Jonny who appear as Paul and Artie have their movements and mannerisms spot on and their attention is stunning.
It’s a worthy and respectful tribute to the duo, but aside from that, it’s an uplifting and thoroughly entertaining show. You won’t be able to sit still: you will be clapping your hands, singing along and swaying to this wonderful music. You will remember why the songs of Paul Simon and the harmonies he produced with Art Garfunkel thrilled several generations of fans.
Go on – treat yourself to a fabulous evening!
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