Tuesday, 30 April 2019

REVIEW: The Simon & Garfunkel Story at the Lyric Theatre

The Simon & Garfunkel Story is exactly that. But although it’s simply a telling of their career through narrative and (mostly) their songs, this is way beyond being a mere tribute act. 

The performers vary throughout the tour but for this outing in the West End Adam Dickinson was Paul Simon and Kingsley Judd played Art Garfunkel. Wisely, though, they appear as themselves, each taking their turn to tell the story of Simon and Garfunkel from their earliest encounter in their school play, Alice in Wonderland, right through to global success. These snippets of narrative are generously illustrated with performances of the songs. And it is only in the music that our two stars become their alter egos. 

The songs are neatly placed into context, not only by the scene setting from the two leads, but also some well-chosen video material played on a screen behind them. Their career essentially spans the 60s so this is an era ripe with incident and news footage, which has been carefully curated to capture the key moments and issues of that heady decade. This means JFK, hippies, the Vietnam war and the moon landing to name a few. At some points I felt the videos were a little too interesting, their content distracting from the music. But this, I think, is better than having them as an irrelevant backdrop whose only role is decorative.

Almost all of the songs are so much part of 20thcentury pop culture that even someone with little or no interest in Simon and/or Garfunkel will find they are familiar with most of it. But this version grabs your familiarity by the scruff of the neck. These songs have been part of our lives for so long we perhaps take them for granted. This show won’t allow you to do that. They are brought vividly to life with freshness and energy, capturing, perhaps, how it must have felt to hear them for the first time.

We are treated to a full band with brass section. No backing tracks or keyboard synth versions of the horn section – it’s all real and live. And what a talented bunch they are! The sheer energy and enthusiasm comes right across and infects the room.

On top of this we have our two leads. Kingsley Judd has his hair in the required Art Garfunkel frizz and looks more than a little like him in his younger days. But I have to say I think Kingsley is the better singer. His voice is quite sublime and there’s a richness to it that I haven’t detected in the original. Adam Dickinson’s Paul Simon makes little attempt at a physical impersonation. And why should he when he combines an easy charm with stunning musicianship, effortlessly playing complicated guitar riffs and tunes to accompany his own singing? On top of that, this is his professional debut. A remarkably confident and winning performance.

The standing ovation was well deserved.

Review by John Charles 


Seat: E7 | Price of ticket: £60
Blog Design by pipdig