Chicago-bound 'The Simon & Garfunkel Story' taps into nostalgia
Nostalgia comes built in with "The Simon & Garfunkel Story," which features 30 songs made famous by songwriter/performers Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.
The global touring show makes its Chicago debut for a three-week run at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place. And no doubt hit songs such as "The Sound of Silence," "Homeward Bound" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" will trigger memories among audience members who remember when the music was new in the 1960s and '70s. But the songs are also beloved by children and young adults who grew up listening to (and came to enjoy) the music of their parents' generation.
This dynamic is seen with two of this show's performers who have Chicago-area ties. Evanston native George Clements plays the older version of the two sets of Paul Simons in the show, while the tour's drummer, Bob Sale, is a native Canadian who spent some of his 1960s childhood in Schaumburg after his father took a job with Illinois Tool Works.
Clements and his twin brother, Charles, developed a lifelong love of folk music thanks to their parents. In fact, Clements stepped away from his own Boston-based modern acoustic group Lonely Heartstring Band to do "The Simon & Garfunkel Show."
"I would listen to 'The Sounds of Silence' practically every night going to bed. It was one of my favorite albums growing up," Clements said. "The first song I learned to play and sing was 'Cathy's Song,' which is one of the solo songs I sing in the show."
Though Clements' family moved away from Illinois when he was 2, he says the Chicago performing scene had an impact on him and his parents. Clements adds his mother, Rebecca Clements, was a 1974 Joseph Jefferson Award winner for starring as Maria in "The Sound of Music" at the former Candelight Dinner Playhouse in Summit.
As for drummer Bob Sale, he actively sought out being in "The Simon & Garfunkel Show" for its global tour in 2017.
"When I first heard about the show, I thought I've got to do this," Sale said. "I'm the oldest one in the show and I grew up with this music."
Some of Sale's happier childhood memories include working a Schaumburg newspaper delivery route, and getting autographs from Chicago Blackhawks players Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita when they practiced in Oak Park. But there were upsetting memories of the '60s as well.
"We had friends who lived on the South Side and my dad drove us down there to help get them out," said Sale, remembering the Chicago rioting following the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "I also remember throwing a ball against our garage door waiting to see if (presidential candidate) Robert Kennedy was going to survive."
Sale realizes that the Simon and Garfunkel songs in the show stir memories of that time.
"You see people wiping their eyes during 'Bridge Over Troubled Water,' or putting their arm around the person next to them," Sale said. "It's pretty emotional."
"I feel really blessed to be able to play this music," he added. "And to actually play for three weeks in a city that will always be really important to me."
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"The Simon & Garfunkel Story"
When: 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; Nov. 19 to Dec. 8
Where: Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago, (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com