‘The Simon & Garfunkel Story’ immerses in musical memories

On tour at the National, a tribute to the masterful singer-songwriters.

All it takes is a measure or two of their songs — “Mrs. Robinson,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Scarborough Fair” — and memories are evoked.

The national tour of The Simon & Garfunkel Story stopped at DC’s National Theatre for two shows last weekend. If you were there you didn’t see the originals but you got the experience of their music and its chronology — a concert-style presentation by two young singers, who look and sound quite a bit like Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. At the performance I saw Saturday night they were George Clements as Simon and Brendan Smith as Garfunkel.

Benjamin Cooley (as Art Garfunkel) and Taylor Bloom (as Paul Simon) in ‘The Simon & Garfunkel Story.’ Photo by Lane Peters.

Despite the production’s deference to the acclaimed musicians, there were things that were missing that might have left you wanting: no shots of album covers, no images or photographs of the original artists. I’ll admit, it took a few moments to let go of my own expectations of “seeing a Simon and Garfunkel concert” without “seeing Simon and Garfunkel.” However, what you do see, if you’re willing to let go of the disbelief, is silhouettes of New York’s Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge, footage of Vietnam, Woodstock, the Civil Rights Movement, and other events of the 1960s and 1970s using video projection and lighting, and a fantastic live band with accomplished vocalists. You can’t help but be immersed in the memories elicited by the music and story of the two guys from New York who went on to become one of the world’s most successful music duos of all time.

George Clements’s guitar playing is flawless and, like Simon, he stands playing with the guitar most of the time. Brendan Smith has an uncanny likeness to Art Garfunkel — blond, curly hair and hands in his pockets as he stands at the microphone. While his voice isn’t an exact replica, he does credit to Garfunkel’s persona with a high, sweet, clear voice and great harmonies. The musicians behind them do a fabulous job with the arrangements and do not disappoint. All of the “biggies” are there: “Mrs. Robinson,” “Feelin’ Groovy,” “Sounds of Silence,” “Cecilia,” “Homeward Bound,” “The Boxer.” It was wonderful to hear the “Li la li” chorus coming from the entire audience in a live theater venue in these days of COVID. And you could literally hear the intake of breath and nostalgia by the audience when the faces of Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft come onscreen with the music starting and the familiar captioned words “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.”

The singers deliver some of the biographical morsels and facts about the duo’s achievements, and some are projected on the screen behind them. It’s noteworthy, however, that there isn’t much mention of the infamous strife and discord between the pair, except the one line, “as the performers grew professionally, they grew apart personally,” and of course, their ultimate split in 1970. But, troubled relationship or no, no one can deny the recognizable harmonies and the masterful lyrics of the singer-songwriters in this musical tribute.

Benjamin Cooley (as Art Garfunkel) and Taylor Bloom (as Paul Simon) in ‘The Simon & Garfunkel Story.’ Photo by Lane Peters.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes including one 20-minute intermission.

The Simon & Garfunkel Story played February 29 and 30, 2022, at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004. Future U.S. tour dates are here.

To explore future Broadway at the National shows, click here.

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Dana Roberts is a Fairfax County Middle School English Teacher. She has an undergraduate degree in Sociology with a minor in Music Education and Flute and Voice from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a graduate degree in Special Education from George Mason University. She has been an actress in theater in the DC Metro Area since the age of 5, and has been a member of the Fairfax Choral Society, Cathedral Choral Society, the Reston Chorale, and is currently a member of the Alexandria Singers. She is also a member of the National Council for Teachers of English, the National Education Association, and the Council for Exceptional Children, as well as a past member of the Alexandria Singers Board of Directors. Currently she lives in Leesburg, VA, with her husband and her two beagles, Riley and Paisley.


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