With the critically acclaimed Simon and Garfunkel Story coming to York’s Grand Opera House on the July 9, an interview with Dean Elliott- who plays Paul Simon as well as being the show’s producer- was a marvellously intriguing experience. In one of his few days off while touring with the show he was able to offer an insightful and charming interview into his personal experiences as the show continues its successful run.
Having previously played Buddy in Buddy Holly the Musical in the West End for 2 years, Dean’s performance in the Olivier award nominated musical shows a marked degree of class that is to be eagerly anticipated when performing as one of the most iconic artists of the 20th century.
On the pressures of playing such a prominent role he seemed humbled and excited by the privilege, as the ‘very expressive and precise story telling’ music of Simon and Garfunkel has been of lasting appeal to him. The ability of Dean is astounding in an environment where ‘people are listening to every note.’
In addition there is the expectation from the audience to hear such prominent music accurately executed, though often the original songs were recorded both live and in a studio creating various difficulties for the group. To combat this, and to ensure that the expectations of the audience are met, Dean and his fellow five performers accurately capture the live performances that the original pair were so well known for. ‘The key parts of Paul and Art have been taken seriously, slowly and delicately and to be getting good reviews is just a testament hard work.’
Performing as Paul Simon, with his immaculate diction and pin point harmonies combined with serene, greatly skilled guitar picking. Fortunately when establishing the show Dean was able to play largely to his strengths, already an established vocal success and accomplished guitarist. As producer, he was able to tactically work with his existing skills to create the strongest line up of musicians possible and do justice to the sensational music and story.
As far as the demographic of the show, Dean admits to being pleasantly surprised as the older members of the audience are equalled by younger ones. This wonderful trait is due to the popular rise of folk music as more and more people are becoming acquainted with the timeless acoustic masterpieces of Simon and Garfunkel.
These ‘wonderful audiences in terms of size and noise with standing ovations every night are a testament to the performers and, indeed, the music itself.’ Indeed, several attendees have admitted to returning to view the show on a number of occasions due to its exceptional atmosphere and performance.
The narrative of the performance is vital in the show; ‘acting through song’ is complemented with a video projection displaying archive footage of Simon and Garfunkel, adding an effective depth of realism to the show. The story line moves from the humble forming of the duo, through their great successes together, turbulent breakup, their individual solo careers and finalises with a recreation of their iconic Central Park reunion concert in 1981, comprehensively covering their somewhat dramatic relationship. Additionally, the show is running in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the release of ‘The Sound of Silence’, uniquely celebrating this serenely powerful track and the glittering careers that followed it.
On producing the show, Dean has found the experience unique: ‘The Simon and Garfunkel story is my baby and its fascinating watching it grow and mature, it’s nice to have some ownership over something.’ The possession of the show that comes with this additional responsibility is also a testament to Dean’s passion for the music, his intimate knowledge of the careers and music of Simon and Garfunkel is abundant and can only serve positively in his performance. Indeed, combined with a load of almost 15 shows a month his workload is impressive, driven by a hunger to represent and do justice to such prestigious music.
The production has been ‘trying to get in contact with Paul Simon himself to come over and see it that would be the ultimate accolade;’ but for now the reviews and audience reaction speaks for itself. It shows the timeless prominence of Simon and Garfunkel combined with the skill of Dean and his fellow performers.
Dean’s undoubtable ‘love for the music’ is clear throughout our interview, as well as his passion for the role of Paul Simon and the production as a whole.