Lyric Theatre (venue)
04 September 2017 (released)
10 September 2017
As someone rightly points out during the interval, “you can’t really go wrong with these songs”. And while that’s true, there always has to be something a little more than the music for shows like these to work. Mamma Mia needs the fun and frolics and We Will Rock You needs the powerful and dramatic staging. So success is not always guaranteed, despite the music.
Back in the West End for the first time in two years, The Simon & Garfunkel Story takes us on a journey from the duo’s beginnings to the extraordinary comeback concert in New York’s Central Park. The way this is done is through short narrative sections from the singers themselves, sprinkled among the cannon of classic hits. There are also videos from the era, with a great sequence leading into Mrs Robinson, where we see a scene from the 1967 film The Graduate, for which the song was written. The video clips sometimes seemed slightly random, with a glimpse of a Cadbury’s Flake advert alongside the odd snippet from JFK and Martin Luther King.
The songs are of course key and the band are terrific. They are however tightly squeezed in tonight, with props from the previous show seemingly still on the stage. The second half sees a brass section join the bass, guitar and drummer too – and those poor guys are left behind a glass screen for some peculiar reason. Adam Smith on keyboards and lead guitar is excellent, but placing the video screen right above drummer Mat Swales doesn’t really work, as it causes the video to move from time to time.
Sam O’Hanlon is Paul and Charles Blyth is Art and they perform the likes of the Boxer, Sound of Silence and Bridge Over Troubled Water with style. Their voices are not too dissimilar to the originals without sounding like a cheap imitation. Where the show falters is with those spoken sections. O’Hanlon’s energy is contrasted by Blyth’s seeming nervousness. He doesn’t appear comfortable; but is he playing the part or still finding his feet on this London stage? O’Hanlon is also just a touch too cheesy and you really want them to get on with the songs. A separate narrator, if it’s needed at all, would have been better.
Overall The Simon & Garfunkel Story falls somewhere between a tribute band show and a musical. A fine touring production, it perhaps needs another spark to lift it to the level of the West End. Having said that, the show wasn’t greeted with a sound of silence but by raucous cheers from many, most of whom left the venue smiling.
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