Duo Taylor Bloom and Benjamin Cooley bring Simon & Garfunkel’s history and music alive on stage.
Featured photo by Lane Peters
As the singing-songwriting duo of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel step back from stage work, Taylor Bloom and Benjamin Cooley step forward to perform some 30 of their folk-rock hits and tell about their high-powered careers and personal lives.
The Simon & Garfunkel Story, North American Tour, has a single performance Saturday evening, Feb. 8, at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, where a full live band joins in the concert-style theater piece enhanced with state-of-the-art video projections.
The story is told chronologically from their beginnings as New York school buddies who were known as Tom & Jerry, and then moves through their success in the 1960s before their breakup in 1970.
The show, seen in 50 countries, culminates with recollections of the Concert in Central Park reunion in 1981, when the two performed for more than a half million fans. Hit numbers include “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “Homeward Bound,” “The Sound of Silence” and “Scarborough Fair.”
“It’s a privilege to play this music, and I love the band that’s up on the stage,” said Bloom, who plays Simon. “These musicians are absolute pros, and to be with them is an absolute pleasure.
“What Ben and I do in telling the story to the audience is to explain, with each song, what was going on in their lives or what was going on in the world at the time each song first was performed,” he said.
“The nice thing about Paul Simon is that there is a fair amount of footage of him with a lot of information to be gleaned from that footage — whether it’s tracking him as a young and sort of naïve performer or later as a legend with the excitement that goes with that. I try to emulate that evolution in my performance.”
Bloom did not have the opportunity to meet Simon in preparing for the role. Instead, his core information about career and private life was taken from a Simon biography.
“Paul Simon and I have a similar guitar-playing style,” Bloom said. “When I was first learning all the music, I thought it was kind of complicated. I soon realized that Simon was doing what was based on chord shapes and techniques. They require a little less effort but give more freedom for the fingers to do other things.
“From night to night, my favorite song to play is ‘The Boxer.’ It’s about someone who’s trying to follow a dream and is struggling, not just with following a dream but with having to give everything up to try to get it. The song is a celebration of fighting for something.”
Bloom, 24, realized a step forward in his quest for a performing career soon after earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Shenandoah Conservatory in Virginia, the state where he grew up learning to play different instruments and acting in school productions. He was chosen for this tour and has been on it for three years.
“Any of my friends will tell you that I’m fairly energetic, boisterous and loud,” he said. “Theater was the first place that I found acceptance of that level of energy that could be shaped into different characters and used to entertain.”
Although Simon and Garfunkel are both of Jewish descent, the show does not discuss their heritage. Bloom was not raised in Jewish traditions, but he says he knows of Jewish heritage on his father’s side and would like to explore that.
“My paternal grandfather is where our Jewish heritage comes from,” he said. “I believe his family came to the United States to escape Germany. I’m curious to find out more about my heritage.”.
The Simon & Garfunkel Story begins at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. Tickets start at $30. 313presents.com.