Dean Elliott is as plausible a Paul Simon as he was as Buddy Holly in the West End musical in which he made his name. For this tribute theatre show, he’s teamed up with Jonny Smart as Art Garfunkel, and they make a very accomplished and immensely likeable duo, both musically in the harmonies but also in the laid-back, unpretentious and almost spontaneous way in which they tell the story.
The show generates a tide of warmth and gains a standing ovation at Derby Assembly Rooms. It’s the acoustic guitar that thrills, plus the familiarity of course of all the iconic numbers like The Sound of Silence and Mrs Robinson. They’re expertly played against a background of grainy, faded, mostly black-and-white photographs that tell America’s story too in the turbulent years of the sixties and seventies. There’s a haunting quality about it all, a sadness, yearning and social conscience conveyed in images of landscape wastes, civil rights protest and rain-washed New York tenements.
This is Jonny Smart’s professional debut after leaving drama school. He perfectly captures Garfunkel’s detachment of manner and unique purity of sound, which is something almost celestial at times. Notes and words just seem to hang in the air. There’s a very authentic and exciting sound from the band of Leon Camfield, Murray Gardiner and Josh Powell. Simon and Garfunkel started out in 1957, and split in 1970. This show demonstrates just how much good music they made and how much of it we find we know.