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An interview with Sam O’Hanlan and Charles Blyth
Image Credit: © Jacqui Wilson

An interview with Sam O’Hanlan and Charles Blyth

3 September 2017 Will Rathbone

The Simon and Garfunkel Story takes the music of the famous duo and blends it with archive footage to tell the story of the men behind such classics as ‘Mrs Robinson’, ‘Cecilia’ and ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’. London Calling caught up with the stars of the show - Sam O’Hanlan (Simon) and Charles Blyth (Garfunkel) - to talk about the journey so far.

London Calling: Good afternoon! Thank you both for speaking with us today. Please could you start by telling us about The Simon and Garfunkel Story?

Sam O’Hanlan: It tells the story of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel in a concert format - taking you through how they met and where they grew up - before going through the songs that they wrote chronologically: from the early rock ‘n’ roll days through to the reunion concert in Central Park in ‘81. Essentially it’s about the music; it tells their story through their songs.

Charles Blyth: It also provides a historical context, and there are lots of visual references to the political climate at the time. It’s interesting because it transports the audience back to wherever they were during those times.


Charles Blyth (Art Garfunkel) and Sam O'Hanlan (Paul Simon) © Jacqui Wilson

LC: The show is billed as ‘an immersive experience” - what do you think lends it that quality?

SO: We try to recreate what it would have been like to see them, and certainly hear them - that’s our main priority. Simon and Garfunkel were known for the awesome ability they had to match their voices and blend with each other, and I think the immersive aspect stems from the audience reactions. We get a lot of people saying: “I just closed my eyes and imagined it”. That’s what we want our audience to feel. We want them to be as close to listening to Simon and Garfunkel live as possible.

CB: Throughout the whole piece, the music of Simon and Garfunkel really resonates with the people who remember the 60s/70s/80s, and I think the projections really help communicate with them as well.

LC: You’ve both been touring with the show since the start of 2017. How has that been, and have any particular performances stood out?

SO: We’re quite new, so we’re learning the ropes as we go! The funny thing about this show is that we play such different places - we’ve played rooms of a hundred people and rooms of three thousand, and it works as both an intimate and a concert show.

CB: It doesn’t seem like we only joined in January - it’s been a crazy tour! We’ve literally been around the world. The last huge performance we did was in Singapore, to over 2000 people, and afterwards we ended up on a rooftop bar overlooking the scenery - it was awesome.


Charles Blyth (Art Garfunkel) and Sam O'Hanlan (Paul Simon) © Jacqui Wilson

LC: Are your backgrounds in theatre or music? Is this your first real taste of gigging?

SO: I come from an acting background. I was in a band when I was fourteen or fifteen, but we only played two or three gigs - definitely not the same thing!

CB: I trained in musical theatre - before this I was in Germany touring for a couple of years. This is my first endeavour into one-nighters though.

SO: I’m very much used to performing, but gigging is a new thing for me. It’s really exciting to perform something that can change slightly every night, and that you can play around with. That’s something that’s unique to live music.

LC: What’s your favourite Simon and Garfunkel song?

SO: We get asked this so often, and it changes every time! At the moment it’s America - I think the lyrics are so good. I come from a folk music/country background, so I love storytelling in songs - hence the musical theatre I guess - and America tells a story. I really like that one.

CB: We sing them all the time, so different songs are my favourite at different times too. Right now, Keep The Customer Satisfied is my favourite. It’s another step up in the rock ‘n’ roll era of their music.


Charles Blyth (Art Garfunkel) and Sam O'Hanlan (Paul Simon) © Jacqui Wilson

LC: What’s your favourite moment from the show?

CB: When we start Act 2, after we’ve done all the groundwork - telling the story of how Simon and Garfunkel originated and how they grew into the established act they are now - we come in with Mrs Robinson. You can feel the audience getting ready to listen to all the hits, and it’s a good gauge of how the evening is going.

SO: I love the Central Park section at the end, because everything is building up to that moment. We go off stage, the band just jam, and then we do this awesome mix of three songs before it turns into a bit of a party. From then on it’s a rock gig, and people start getting up. I get a real buzz from that.

LC: What’s on your cultural radar right now?

SO: I’m massively into Game of Thrones - if that counts as being culturally aware! I read a lot of fantasy books as well - I’m really into Tolkein - and John Mayer is a massive influence for me as a guitarist. He keeps a lot of old styles alive, and it was through him that I first discovered Paul Simon.

CB: At the minute I’m re-reading The Hobbit, as well as a book called Hemingway on Writing, which contains extracts from Hemingway’s letters. Music-wise, I’ve been listening to the Average White Band!

The Simon and Garfunkel Story runs at the Lyric Theatre, W1D 7ES, on 4 September, 2 October, 6 November and 4 December. Tickets from £19.50.

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