BWW Review: THE SIMON AND GARFUNKEL STORY, Lyric Theatre
We're waiting for "Bridge Over Troubled Water" of course - and we get there, as you might expect, at the end. En route, we learn a lot about the duo from New York, who did a bit of rock 'n' roll, a bit of folky psychedelia and released some of the more sophisticated and commercial pop of the late 60s. Whether we learn enough is a matter to which I shall return.
We start with Tom and Jerry - a goyim name for the two teens who idolised Phil and Don (and The Everly Brothers' influence never waned), but after a minor hit and a couple of solo projects that didn't really work, the two are soon working under their real names, Simon and Garfunkel. "The Sound of Silence" establishes them in the mid-Sixties heralding five years of unrelenting success.
The familiar songs keep coming - "Homeward Bound", "I Am A Rock", "A Hazy Shade of Winter", "Scarborough Fair" and maybe a dozen more that make you say "Oh yeah, that was them too". Meanwhile a screen displays high quality photos of our heroes: Paul Simon usually looking a little intense as he stares down the camera; Art Garfunkel, dreamy, angelic, contemplating the middle distance.
We also get a somewhat random montage of other iconic scenes of the 60s - flowers in rifles, Neil Leifer's Muhammad Ali on the taunt; John and Yoko in bed. That the pictures don't always match the years (Bobby Kennedy is brought back to life a couple of times at least) is a little annoying, but as nothing compared to the fact that the screen is fixed too low, so anyone in the stalls has the performers' shadows obscuring the lower third of the images!
If that gaffe can be put down to being a touring show in one stop venue, I'm less forgiving of the vocal mixing. On almost every song, the bass and drums overpower the vocals, making S and G support characters in their own story. On the occasions that the instruments are pushed back a little on the desk, I felt like stopping the show and shouting, "Don't touch that dial!" It's a fair bet that, good though the band may be, most people are here for the voices - so they must be front and centre at all times.
And they are good, very good. Philip Murray Warson doesn't look much like Paul Simon (he actually looks like Jimmy Fallon) but he hits the harmonies beautifully and plays a mean acoustic guitar. Charles Blyth gets Art Garfunkel's stance, singing half across his left shoulder, and hits the high falsetto notes faultlessly. If he doesn't quite capture the complementary fragility that so marks the best of Garfunkel's work - well, who does?
We needed to hear more of their singing.
The show finishes in a rush with just a footnote about the pair's individual post 1970 work, Garfunkel rather brilliant in movies Catch 22, Carnal Knowledge and Bad Timing and a glimpse of Simon's controversial and groundbreaking "Graceland" album. There's much in the between songs narrative about "pressure of work" and "musical differences" but quitting at the very peak of popularity, might need a little more explanation than we are given.
The show is successful and there was an authentic standing ovation as the curtain fell, but the details of sound and image presentation had detracted from what would otherwise have been a much more satisfying evening.
Photo Betty Zapata