'The Simon and Garfunkel Story' celebrates songs over story

  • "The Simon & Garfunkel Story" features Ben Cooley and Taylor Bloom channeling the title singers. The touring musical plays the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place in Chicago through Sunday, Dec. 8.

    "The Simon & Garfunkel Story" features Ben Cooley and Taylor Bloom channeling the title singers. The touring musical plays the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place in Chicago through Sunday, Dec. 8. Courtesy of Lane Peters

 
By Lisa Friedman Miner
lminer@dailyherald.com
Posted11/22/2019 4:45 PM

"The Simon & Garfunkel Story" -- ★ ★

As a celebration of an extraordinary body of music, "The Simon and Garfunkel Story" offers a nostalgic and melodic journey through some of the most beloved and moving songs of the '60s. As a piece of theater, however, it falls short.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The concert-style show features two talented singers re-creating the look and sound of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, down to the latter's curly mop and hands-in-pocket stance. But they're not impersonating the duo or acting: They speak of "Paul and Art" in the third person in a somewhat jarring manner, narrating bits of their history between songs.

Behind them on a massive screen, photographs of the places the singers went to and snippets of video to help set the songs in context. Images of the war in Vietnam, the protests back home, the civil rights movement and the moon landing serve as reminders of the turbulent times, while ads for Tupperware and other era staples provide lighter moments.

Two sets of singers alternate in the tour, and on opening night the packed audience was treated to an energetic, charming Taylor Bloom channeling Simon on vocals and guitar, and a sweet-voiced Ben Cooley laying claim to Garfunkel. Backed by a four-piece band, they help tell the story of the friends from Queens who first performed in the 1950s as Tom and Jerry.

Bloom and Cooley hit the highlights in a CliffsNotes version of the folk-rock duo's successes, together and in solo projects, while acknowledging the fractures in their friendship that would ultimately tear them apart. You learn little, however, of the depths of that break or of their personal lives, beyond how Simon's experiences helped shape his songs.

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Ultimately, the lure of "The Simon and Garfunkel Story" is those songs. Decades later, they still have the power to move.

The show opens with "Sounds of Silence" and ends with "The Boxer." In between, Simon and Garfunkel fans -- and I count myself a big one -- can revel in hits and lesser-known gems. Among the highlights were Cooley's haunting vocals in "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" and the deeply stirring "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," as well as the duo's take on "America."

When they sing of "Old Friends," sitting on a park bench, you can't help but note the irony. The friendship between the two, now both 78, ended in bitterness -- something the show doesn't really explore.

It's been almost a decade since Simon and Garfunkel last sang together. And while Bloom and Cooley can't entirely re-create the duo's magic, they can submerge audiences in their music. Maybe that's enough.

• • •

Location: Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago, (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (no show Nov. 28; added 2 p.m. matinee Nov. 29), 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 6 p.m. Sunday; through Dec. 8

Tickets: $35-$100

Running time: About 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission

Parking: Pay lots

Rating: Largely for general audiences, but the show features drug references and Vietnam War images

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