Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, a couple of Jewish boys who grew up in Queens in the 1950s, developed a brand of folk-inflected, harmonizing pop that made them one of the most important musical acts of the 1960s. After performing hit singles "Mrs. Robinson," "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Homeward Bound," and many more, the group broke up in 1970—50 years ago—and never made another studio album together. But their music has endured, in part thanks to the duo's occasional reunion tours.
Beyond the sound of silence
The actual Simon and Garfunkel, who are both 78 years old, haven't performed together in more than ten years, but the Kimmel Center will soon present the next best thing, a tribute musical called "The Simon & Garfunkel Story."
A hit in London's West End, the musical is now touring North America and is headed to Philadelphia for a two-night run at the Merriam Theater on January 29 and 30.
The show features a pair of actors playing the duo and singing, accompanied by a four-piece band and video projected behind them; the actor playing Simon also plays guitar. The show begins with Simon and Garfunkel as young men and continues through their rise, while the second half begins with their music being featured in the classic 1967 film The Graduate. The show ends with the group's famous 1981 Concert in Central Park.
Ben Cooley plays Garfunkel in the show, opposite Taylor Bloom as Simon. Cooley, 24, told BSR in an interview this week that he wasn't super-familiar with the duo's music prior to joining the show, although his parents were fans. After joining the show, straight off an audition back in the fall of 2018, he engaged in something of a Simon & Garfunkel crash course.
"When I booked the job, I just started listening to all their albums," Cooley said. "Whenever I would listen to music, it would be Simon & Garfunkel."
The show, the actor said, doesn't delve deeply into the duo's various feuds over the years.
"We're mostly singing the songs of Simon & Garfunkel, and in between the songs, [we] intermittently tell the story of their lives, mostly pertaining to the music, kind of informing you about the time that Paul wrote the song."
Cooley added that while the duo approved the use of their music in the show, they've generally been hands-off with the production, and as far as he knows, neither Simon nor Garfunkel has been to see the show at any point.
What, When, Where
"The Simon & Garfunkel Story," starring Ben Cooley and Taylor Bloom, comes to the Merriam Theater, 250 South Broad St., Wednesday and Thursday, January 29-30. Tickets are available online and by calling 215-893-1999.
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