'Simon & Garfunkel Story' coming to Civic Center features real-life high school pals
Concert-style theater show chronicles story of legendary folk-rock duo
- “The Simon & Garfunkel Story” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24 at the Farmington Civic Center.
- Tickets are $18 and $14.
- They can be purchased online at fmtn.org/shows, at the box office or by phone at 505-599-1148.
Editor's note: This story was updated Jan. 25 to reflect a correction for the cutline published with photos accompanying this article. The cutlines featured incorrect identification of the actors. the two actors in the photo were from the production's previous cast, not its current cast.
FARMINGTON — Jonah Bobo was a freshman at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York City 10 years ago when he began performing Paul Simon songs.
It didn’t take long before he established a friendship with a classmate named Brendan Jacob Smith, and the two decided to perform a Paul Simon-Art Garfunkel medley for their school talent show.
It did not go well, as Bobo recalled.
“We watch it now (on video), and we’re like, ‘I can’t believe they let us get away with it,’” Bobo said, laughing, during a Jan. 19 telephone interview, where he and Smith had just finished doing a sound check for their performance of “The Simon & Garfunkel Story” in Folsom, California.
Bobo and Smith have polished their act considerably since those days, as they now find themselves playing the lead roles in a nationally touring show that has been around for the better part of 10 years. They’ll perform “The Simon & Garfunkel Story” — a concert-style theater show that chronicles the legendary folk-rock duo’s story over a more than 20-year period — later this week in Farmington.
Bobo, who portrays Simon in the show, may not have been born to play Simon, but the fact that he has been a fan of the songwriter’s work for almost as long as he can remember made that move anything but awkward.
“It felt very natural to stop into his shoes,” he said.
Bobo took over the role earlier this year, and the Farmington performance will be only his 13th performance. Yet he insisted he already is vey comfortable in Simon’s skin.
“He’s one of my heroes, and Simon and Garfunkel is some of the most influential music for me as a fan and an artist,” he said. “I’m pretty obsessed.”
When he took over the role, Bobo said he made a conscious decision to provide the audience with as close an approximation to Simon as he could. So even though “The Simon & Garfunkel Story” is a stage show, Bobo said he is not trying to interpret Simon, as a stage actor traditionally might approach the role of a real-life person.
“I definitely consider it more of an impersonation,” he said. “I watched a lot of videos of him, and I’m constantly trying to look and sound like him. That’s what people are paying to see — a young Paul Simon. But within that, I think my own soul shines through.”
Bobo said he has done a fair amount of research into Simon, including reading his biography, which delves into Simon’s struggles as a young performer, when he seemingly spent a lot of time spinning his wheels. Bobo said he found it especially interesting that while Simon was an undergraduate at Queens College, one of his best friends was another unknown musician and songwriter named Carole King, who shortly thereafter would hit paydirt with her song “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?”
Despite his friendship with King, that must have stung Simon, Bobo said, who likely was growing frustrated with his lack of success in the music business. But through it all — a seven-year period of futility that finally ended in 1964 with the release of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” the duo’s signature tune — Simon apparently never lost faith in himself, never considered chucking his music career and finding something else to do.
“Nothing discouraged him throughout all his swings and misses,” Bobo said.
If he ever gets the chance to meet Simon, Bobo said, he is determined to ask him what kept him going during those lean years.
“Did he know he was destined for greatness — or did he know that giving up was the only way he could lose?” Bobo asked rhetorically.
But first, Bobo said, he would take the time to thank Simon for the music he has released over the course of his career. Bobo said the honor of portraying Simon is something he doesn’t take lightly, and he relishes every second of it.
“I guess I couldn’t really have imagined the level of bliss I get from being on stage and getting to impersonate Paul Simon,” he said.
“The Simon & Garfunkel Story” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24 at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St. in Farmington. Tickets are $18 and $14. They can be purchased online at fmtn.org/shows, at the box office or by phone at 505-599-1148.