Wednesday, 25 July 2018

REVIEW: The Simon and Garfunkel story at the Lyric Theatre, London


Simon and Garfunkel’s 5thalbum together “Bridge over troubled water” was the biggest selling album of 1970, 1971 and 1972 and at the time the biggest selling album of all time. Its iconic title song was written by Paul Simon about their failing relationship and sung mainly by Art Garfunkel. The folk rock duo split up shortly afterwards. The Simon and Garfunkel Story could have illuminated the audience on how their relationship developed and the causes of the breakdown in their friendship. Instead Dean Elliot (Director/writer) and Preece Kilick (CSM/Director) give us a straight chronological concert presentation of their music with the actors out of character narration of the linking minimal biography.

For a Simon and Garfunkel fan, who knows their music, it is a faithful well executed tribute show and a chance to hear the less well known album tracks performed live. The strong backing band of Adam Smith (guitar/organ), Leon Caulfield (bass) and Mat Swales (drums), augmented by a three piece brass ensemble in the second half, provide a powerful backing to the duo and particularly excel in the musical interlude which covers the singers solo work between 1971 and 1981.Sadly at times they seemed to drown out the vocals of the duo and so in the unfamiliar songs it was sometimes hard to catch the lyrics. 

When the vocal are clear it is excellent with good harmonies as in the “Sound of Silence” (1966) which opens the show , “Feelin’ groovy”(1966) , “Homewood bound “(1966) , “Scarborough Fayre” ( 1966) , “Mrs Robinson” ( 1968) which opens Act 2 and “Cecilia” (1970). In these they show how good the originals were and how talented the current performers are with Philip Murray Watson as Simon and Charles Blyth as Garfunkel. But in other tracks with morose sounding themes like in Richard Cory (1966) which is introduced ironically by Blyth as a happy song about suicide and Bookends (1968) preceded by a weird projected images and voices in the darkness.

The show wallows in sixties nostalgia with a range of black and white images projected on a screen behind the band. We see adverts for Head and Shoulders, Ice pops, Ford’s and Flash. We see pictures of Ali, James Dean, Steve McQueen, Bob Dylan and Sean Connery. We see images of US civil unrest, Martin Luther King and anti-Vietnam demonstrations. It was hard to fathom the connection with the music played without any explanation, presumably it was just the context of when the music was written.

It is only when it comes to the final sequence, the 1981 Central Park reunion
concert and especially in the long awaited “Bridge over troubled waters” (1970) that they let loose and with some fairly straightforward concert lighting look like they are enjoying the evening. Having never seen the originals it is hard to judge whether the lack of chemistry and banter between them was a fair depiction of the artistes or a fault of the show.

Nevertheless the audience of Simon and Garfunkel fans loved it and gave them the expected standing ovation after the obligatory encore (preceded by an overlong delay) and no doubt will book to see them again when the show plays the Vaudeville for a week on 12th November.

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★

Seat: Stalls E | Price of Ticket: £72
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