If you’re not a fan going in, you’ll soon forget a time when you weren’t, says Laura Sexton after going to review The Simon & Garfunkel Story at Milton Keynes Theatre.
I’d be lying if I said I went into the show knowing everything there is to know about Simon & Garfunkel. Given that the duo was predominantly at their height during the 1960s and 70s, it’s fair to say that the music is a bit before my time. However, any uncertainty as to how much I’d enjoy the show was lifted as soon as the tribute duo, Charles Blyth and Sam O’Hanlon came on stage.
Blyth who plays Art Garfunkel and O’Hanlon who plays Paul Simon, are the perfect pair, who, from the moment they start singing can easily be mistaken for the actual Simon & Garfunkel, hypnotising everyone with their harmonies. Note that Simon and Garfunkel are also played by Gregory Clarke and Joe Sterling at certain performances.
The evening consists of a tribute styled show, whereby Blyth and O’Hanlon narrate the story of the band and how they came to be; from the moment they met at school during a performance of Alice in Wonderland where Art played the Cheshire Cat and Paul played the White Rabbit, to their rocky friendship and reunion years later.
This narration is accompanied with a selection of songs from the band’s time such as Sound of Silence, Cecelia and Kathy’s Song. My personal favourite was Mrs. Robinson which the duo sing in front of a screen showing parts of the film The Graduate, which features the song. At one point I thought there was something untoward happening, with the ground appearing to shake, but soon realised it was just the tremors of everyone tapping their feet to the upbeat melody.
For fans of the band, the show will feel like a comforting hug and for new fans you’ll be surprised at how many of the songs you recognise and even know the words to. Even with the less familiar tunes, I found myself clapping along with my fellow theatre goers, creating an aura of merriness.
I was somewhat unsure as to how the show would work. Being used to musicals and plays, I was apprehensive as to how this style of performance would capture the audience. The set is simple, just microphones, instruments and a couple of stalls. The backdrop features a large screen with clips and images of Simon & Garfunkel playing throughout. Despite my apprehension, I soon discovered that this show does not need anything more, no fancy set, no large ensemble, and no bellowing orchestra: just two voices, a skilful backing band, and a host of thought provoking lyrics.
One of the most impressive parts of this show is the aforementioned band and how fantastically they all complement each other’s talent. The band consists of Adam Smith who plays both electric guitar and the keyboards, effortlessly I might add, Leon Camfield who plays bass and during one song, the djembe drum, and Mat Swales on the drums, who owns the rhythm.
The delightful tunes tell the story of Simon & Garfunkel effectively and in a way that makes you fall in love with the band. Both voices are equally as melodic and touching, and O’Hanlon’s ability to play acoustic guitar throughout all songs cannot be faltered. And when Blyth comes out for the much desired encore to perform Bridge Over Troubled Water, his solo voice is unleashed and is an epitome of the original. The raw sound and authenticity helps to deliver an evening of pure vivacity.
I can bet that each performance of the show, wherever it may visit, will provide a harmonic evening that will not disappoint, and I can assure you there was no sound of silence amongst the audience at Milton Keynes Theatre, just an ovation of appreciation and joy.
The Simon & Garfunkel Story is currently on a UK and International tour. Group organisers should visit www.thesimonandgarfunkelstory.com regarding tickets and venues.