A Si­mon & Gar­funkel trib­ute show hon­ours the fa­mous mu­sic duo

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - INSIDE - PHIL BROWN

When peo­ple mis­take him for some­one else, Gre­gory Clarke is chuffed. Clarke, a British ac­tor and mu­si­cian, plays Paul Si­mon in The

Si­mon & Gar­funkel Story, a trib­ute show that comes to Bris­bane next month.

And af­ter each show, Clarke, 36, re­mains Paul Si­mon to Joe Ster­ling’s Art Gar­funkel. He says some­times peo­ple re­ally do be­lieve they are the fa­mous Amer­i­can mu­si­cal duo.

“We will come out af­ter every show and pose for pho­tos and an­swer ques­tions,” Clarke tells

Qweek­end over the phone from Eng­land. “Peo­ple treat us as if we are Si­mon and Gar­funkel. One man said to me af­ter one show, ‘You know I saw you in Cen­tral Park in 1981 and you were ter­rific’.

“I said to him, ‘you mean you saw Si­mon and Gar­funkel’? But the fact that he thought I was Paul Si­mon, well, that was a com­pli­ment.” Crit­ics have been rav­ing about The Si­mon &

Gar­funkel Story, a show that has been on the road in the UK and across the globe for sev­eral years. The brains be­hind it is co-pro­ducer Dean El­liot, who played Si­mon be­fore Clarke.

“I was an ac­tor and mu­si­cian with a love of the acous­tic gui­tar and folk mu­sic,” El­liot says. “I loved Si­mon and Gar­funkel, all those com­plex har­monies and beau­ti­ful songs. I cre­ated the show and the di­rec­tor said I might as well play Paul Si­mon, as I knew all the songs. The only prob­lem was I was a bit too tall.” Still, he did it for a year-and-a-half. The real Si­mon is a diminu­tive fel­low, a bloke who, ac­cord­ing to one jour­nal­ist, may suf­fer from a “Napoleon com­plex”. There have been a few neg­a­tive things said about Si­mon by some com­men­ta­tors, and Art Gar­funkel hasn’t al­ways been kind about his former part­ner, either.

Part of The Si­mon & Gar­funkel story is that be­yond the beau­ti­ful mu­sic and ex­quis­ite har­monies there was ten­sion, al­though the show doesn’t harp on that.

The duo made it through the 1960s but broke up as the 1970s dawned. They had been to­gether since the early 1950s af­ter meet­ing as chil­dren in Queens, New York. They grew up em­u­lat­ing their mu­si­cal he­roes, the Everly Broth­ers, and in the late ’50s per­formed as Tom & Jerry.

By the early 1960s they were a more so­phis­ti­cated act and went on to cre­ate some of the big­gest hits of the decade: songs such as The Sound of Si­lence, The Boxer, I Am a Rock and many oth­ers, in­clud­ing the exquisitely mov­ing Bridge Over Trou­bled Wa­ter. Their ef­fect on pop­u­lar cul­ture was boosted

We do try to phys­i­cally look like them as much as we can but the most im­por­tant thing is that we want to sound like them. That’s the bit that re­ally mat­ters, cap­tur­ing that clas­sic sound

when their mu­sic (in­clud­ing the hit Mrs Robin­son) was used on the sound­track of 1967 film The Grad­u­ate, which starred a young Dustin Hoff­man.

In fact Si­mon & Gar­funkel be­came part of the sound­track of peo­ple’s lives. But the duo even­tu­ally went their sep­a­rate ways, al­though they have re­united sev­eral times since, in­clud­ing for the Con­cert in Cen­tral Park in 1981, which was at­tended by 500,000 peo­ple, and tour­ing Aus­tralia in 2009, per­form­ing at the Bris­bane En­ter­tain­ment Cen­tre.

While Si­mon has forged a suc­cess­ful solo ca­reer, Gar­funkel, who has bat­tled de­pres­sion, has also made his own way and had hits with­out Si­mon (who had writ­ten all the songs for Si­mon & Gar­funkel). He has also pur­sued a suc­cess­ful act­ing ca­reer, with notable roles in Catch-22 (1970) and Car­nal Knowl­edge (1971).

Gar­funkel, now 74, has been an ec­cen­tric, reclu­sive fig­ure over the years, while Si­mon, also 74, has been more pub­lic. Ear­lier this month he re­leased a new al­bum, Stranger to

Stranger, his 12th, which has been crit­i­cally ac­claimed.

Play­ing Si­mon is a priv­i­lege for Gre­gory Clarke, who says he is closer to Si­mon’s ac­tual height than El­liot was.

“We do try to phys­i­cally look like them as much as we can,” Clarke says.

“But the most im­por­tant thing is that we want to sound like them. That’s the bit that re­ally mat­ters, cap­tur­ing that clas­sic sound.

“We tell their story in chrono­log­i­cal or­der, kick­ing off the show with a fa­mous song, but I won’t tell you which one be­cause I want it to be a sur­prise. The show is a pre­sen­ta­tion of their mu­sic with in­ter­jec­tions from me and Joe be­tween the songs telling you about what was go­ing on in their lives.”

Clarke says Si­mon is a one of the world’s great song­writ­ers.

“He is re­ally a poet, like Dy­lan,” says Clarke, who has played in bands as well as acted on­stage in Lon­don’s West End. But right now he is con­cen­trat­ing on this role, his great­est yet.

He says his ul­ti­mate aim is to take the show to the US and “in­vite the guys along”. “They wouldn’t have to buy tick­ets,” he prom­ises.

Ster­ling, who plays Art Gar­funkel, is only 24. At his age he shouldn’t re­ally know any­thing about Si­mon & Gar­funkel.

“But I am a big fan be­cause my mum brought me up on Si­mon & Gar­funkel,” Ster­ling says. “I re­ally learnt to love their mu­sic.”

Ster­ling is a mu­si­cian and ac­tor who made a name for him­self as Buddy Holly in the show

Buddy Holly and the Crick­eters, which has toured Bri­tain to rave re­views.

He says he and Clarke did a lot of re­search for their roles. “We watched a lot of clips of the duo per­form­ing and I was in­ter­ested to see how Gar­funkel holds him­self when he per­forms,” Ster­ling says.

“I think he’s a very cool, in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter and has done some re­ally in­ter­est­ing things. I mean, the guy has walked across Amer­ica (Gar­funkel has also, in­cre­men­tally, walked across Ja­pan and Europe). Paul Si­mon wrote all the songs but Art has that beau­ti­ful voice.

“They were a won­der­ful team, they com­ple­mented each other so well.” Dean El­liot points out that in Si­mon’s song

Old Friends he wrote the line: “how ter­ri­bly strange to be 70”.

The fa­mous duo are past that mile­stone now, but on stage they are for­ever young, thanks to Clarke and Ster­ling.

The Si­mon & Gar­funkel Story, Con­cert Hall, QPAC, South Bris­bane, July 13-14, $79-$119,

( This page, top, and op­po­site page) Gre­gory Clarke and Joe Ster­ling play the re­spec­tive mu­si­cians ( above) in The Si­mon & Gar­funkel Story.

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