The Simon and Garfunkel Story – Gaiety Theatre – Review by Conor O’Carroll
Until November 3rd, 2018.
‘The Simon and Garfunkel Story’ is a rags to riches musical, telling the story of two childhood friends from Queens in New York, who become a world-famous duo. For younger readers, Simon & Garfunkel were an American folk-rock duo consisting of singer-songwriters Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. They were one of the best-selling music groups of the 1960s and became symbols of that period’s social transformation on a par with the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Bob Dylan. They first performed together in the school play Alice in Wonderland with Paul as the white rabbit and Art as the Cheshire cat.
The show is led by Kingsley Judd as Art and Adam Dickinson as Paul. There is a well accomplished live band with lead guitar (Tim Bloomer), bass guitar (Dominik Told), drums (Chris Castellito) and keyboards (Kyla Brown). After the interval there are three extra musicians on saxophone, trombone and trumpet.
The production starts with the duo upfront and the backing band spread across behind. The scenery backdrop is New York, dominated by the iconic Brooklyn bridge. In the centre there is a screen showing images and footage with sound mainly of the 1960s; this sets their music in a historical context showing key events of that era. The lighting sets the tone for each period and album they cover. They take us through the sixties from the Kennedy/Nixon Presidential race in 1961 to anti-war protests against Nixon as president in 1969. They highlight the equal rights movement and anti-war protests against US involvement in the Vietnam war. They change their costumes to anchor them in different periods from late fifties to sixties.
Kingsley Judd (Art) and Adam Dickinson (Paul) step in and out of character to narrate the story and then to perform as the singer songwriters. Their strong English accents accentuating the difference between them as narrators and as the duo. They talk us through how the duo began their musical career, following in the footsteps of the Everly Brothers, with the name Tom and Jerry. Their first release, Hey Schoolgirl, in 1957 was moderately successful. Their first album in 1963 did not sell well and they separated with Paul moving to London and playing in clubs. In 1965, following the success of The Sound of Silence in the US, Paul decided to move back. The pair teamed up again and so began the stellar career of these singer songwriters beginning with the Sound of Silence album. They take us through the sixties with the backdrop of equal rights marches and the assassinations of Kennedy and King. We hear all the well-known songs including ‘Scarborough Fair’, ‘59th Street Bridge Song’, ‘Homeward Bound’, ‘A Hazy Shade of Winter’, ‘The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine’ and ‘Kathy’s Song. Paradoxically, it was at their zenith, with the album Bridge Over Troubled Water, that they split.
The second act opens with a strong rendition of ‘Mrs. Robinson’ that was featured in the film ‘The Graduate’ and how this propelled them to further fame and popularity. Their break-up in 1970 and subsequent solo careers is explained through text on the screen back to the ultimate reunion in 1981, when over half a million fans went to see them perform in Central Park.
Kingsley Judd (Art) and Adam Dickinson (Paul) have mastered the art of changing between their roles as narrator (in their own voice) and moving into character as Simon & Garfunkel. They are highly talented singers and cover all the songs very well. On opening night, the audience reacted as if they were at a real Simon and Garfunkel show with a standing ovation and cries for more. They duly obliged with an encore of Bridge Over Troubled Water and The Boxer to a rapturous applause.