An Interview With Dean Elliott of ‘The Simon and Garfunkel Story’
May 28, 2015
[Images courtesy of thesimonandgarfunkelstory.com; whatsonstage.com]
Following critical success at London’s Leicester Square Theatre ‘The Simon and Garfunkel Story’ is heading up North to the Harrogate Theatre for one night only! The shows stars award-winning Dean Elliott – a leading actor from the Olivier award nominated musical ‘Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story’. Dean plays lead Paul Simon and invites you on a magnificent musical journey back in time. Celebrating the lives of Folk/Rock sensation Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, the audience are given a rare glimpse into the Rock n Roll duo’s humble beginnings as ‘Tom and Jerry’, right up to their legendary 1981 Central Park reunion concert. Using a huge projection screen depicting old photos and film footage, and aided by a full live band, this is much more than a tribute act. Featuring all the favourite hits including ‘Mrs Robinson’, ‘Cecilia’, ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’, ‘Sound of Silence’ and many more, this is a spectacular show not to be missed!
TSOTA’s Malak El-Gonemy catches up with the star of the West End hit ahead of the next leg of its UK/Worldwide tour…
TSOTA: Hi Dean, can you tell us a little bit more about the background of the show and where the idea originated from?
DE: I guess the show came from a desire to create something myself, something that I cared about and something that I thought was good…I wanted to be more than just a performer in it. So that tied in with some ideas I had – my heart is very much into the history of Rock n Roll, and I went to my CD section and realized that I had all my old Simon and Garfunkel albums. Then someone asked me what their story was, and I thought that was really interesting…people always ask, you know –‘did they fall out?’, ‘why did they hate each other so much?’, and all that sort of stuff, and I thought it was an fascinating story to tell. So I guess it came from there really, and we’re now about a year and half into the tour.
TSOTA: Wow! So where are you off to next?
DE: Well we were in the West End at the start of the year, and we’ve just come back from Italy. Then we’re off to Spain on Friday, and after the Spanish tour we’re back in the UK for a couple of months before we go out to Europe again. Then next year we’re taking this very much international – Australia, South Africa, Scandinavia, Canada, Dubai…keeping busy really, which is the important thing!
TSOTA: There’s been such a great reaction to the show already, what do you think it is about the story that’s so relevant to audiences today?
DE: I think the music at the time – the 60s – was talking to people in a way that a lot of people weren’t – Paul Simon was writing about relationships; feelings; thoughts, and I think because of that people remember Simon and Garfunkel and it stays with them longer. The amount of people we’ve met who say things like ‘that song reminds me of my father’, or ‘that was the song we got married to’ shows how special the songs are. The good thing is that the piece has very much come from a place of love and with respect for the music – it’s not trashy, and I think that because of that the audience love it just as much as we do.
TSOTA: It’s hard to say, but how do you think different cities and countries react to the show?
DE: I think it’s really down to how people connect to their local theatre. One of my favourite theatres in the whole country is Inverness – you walk in there any time of the day and it’s jam-packed full of people, and there really is a sense of community. I think that’s really the main difference – what the theatre’s position is within the community. You’ll find some small, working-class towns where the theatre will be buzzing and alive with excitement, and then you’ll find some major cities where it’s the complete opposite really…so yeah it’s weird, it’s very hard to predict!
TSOTA: Of course you aren’t simply portraying a character but a real person who is also still alive…how is it playing such an iconic role?
DE: I guess it’s a blessing and a curse in disguise really…in some ways you’ve got so much material, whether that be video or audio, to be able to take inspiration from their mannerisms and the way they play, so that’s quite handy. On the flip side of the coin, they’re a real person – they’ve loved, they’ve cared, they’ve gone through human relationships, and we don’t want to mess with anyone’s view on that. So we can’t make a pastiche of someone or a caricature because it wouldn’t be fair on the memory or the view people have of them…so yeah it’s good and bad.
TSOTA: Definitely…how has that been in relation to other things you’ve done, such as your role in ‘Buddy the Musical’?
DE: Funnily enough, with Buddy there isn’t that much footage of him because he died before mainstream videoing and television, so that was tougher…it was more reading about what he was like. Also, the show was around since 1989, so there was a determined way of performing, whilst with Paul Simon I’ve created the role so I’m guessing I’ve laid the blue-print and the framework for other people who might take over from me in the future.
TSOTA: From what I understand, the show is comprised of a mix between photos/montages as well as the live action, what is the dynamic between the two on stage?
DE: It’s very much a piece of theatre with a storyline, so the projection screen behind us takes people on a bigger journey of the 1960s…and that’s a really big story – you’ve got the moon landings, Vietnam, the birth of the post-war teenager…there’s a lot going on at the time. So what we’re doing is telling the story of two friends against that backdrop of something extraordinarily larger.
TSOTA: You’ve touched upon this already, but what do you think the importance of live performance is – both for the audience but also for you on stage?
DE: In my opinion, I don’t think there is any art form that is better than theatre…you know, when you see something live and there’s a moment where something could go wrong or there’s a moment where something changes – maybe an audience member sneezes or something – I think that’s really very exciting. So we’ve got the power of theatre behind us, as well as the power of video and music, so it’s really amazing to be able to play all those songs in a live setting.
TSOTA: You’ve probably been asked this many times before, but have you ever had one of those ‘mind blank’ moments on stage? How do you recover from that as a performer?
DE: Oh yeah, many times! Without sounding like some sort of old thespian, I’ve being doing it a long time, and I actually really like those moments; they’re so dangerous and you just have no idea about what’s going to happen. I remember once at drama school I forgot an entire section of script and it was just me and another guy on stage and neither of us knew what to do, so I just started making lines up! I think the audience can feel that energy – it’s so exciting and dynamic, and that’s what keeps the theatre alive.
TSOTA: In terms of your own specific interests, where would you situate yourself in regards to singing/acting, or do you tend to do a mix of the two?
DE: My interests are in creating exceptional theatre, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, and now I’m in a very fortunate position of being able to do that, so that’s what I want to keep doing. I think the ‘Simon and Garfunkel Story’ is a piece of theatre that we worked really hard on and we got the right people to do it, and it worked, and I want to invest that amount of time and energy into everything I do.
TSOTA: Finally, as a student trying to get into the industry, what advice would you give to someone looking to act or perform?
DE: I would say learn as many extra things as possible, outside of performing. I’ll give you a good example – I went for an audition for an advert and they asked me if I could drive a scooter, and I couldn’t, and I told them that! And then I met the guy who got the job and it turns out he had just said he could anyway and then learnt how to, and that’s what got him the job! And actually, one of the main reasons why I’ve had such a good career is the fact that I play so many instruments…so I think my advice would be don’t just learn how to sing and act, but also learn other things like how to play basketball, or cut grass, and then put all those on your CV. You never know, that might be the thing that puts you above the next person!
Interview by Malak El-Gonemy
Make sure you don’t miss out on seeing the show at The Harrogate Theatre, Tuesday 2nd June, by purchasing your tickets here, or calling the BOX OFFICE on 01423 502 116.
You can also find out more about the show by checking out their website.
“FANTASTIC” – BBC Radio 2
“STORYTELLING AT ITS FINEST – Choice Radio