• From High School to a National Tour, Jonah Bobo and Brendan Jacob Smith are Simon and Garfunkel.

    • By Julie Smith Yolles

    They were two talented New Yorkers from Brooklyn and Roosevelt Island who met as freshmen at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, also known as the “Fame” school. They went to Ithaca College together. And, in a bold move, they even auditioned as a duo for the coveted leads on the national tour of The Simon & Garfunkel Story.

    For two shows on Saturday, March 18, at Detroit’s Music Hall, Jonah Bobo will be singing as Paul Simon and Brendan Jacob Smith joins him as Art Garfunkel in the critically acclaimed concert-style show that celebrates the music of the folk-rock legends. The show follows Simon and Garfunkel’s early beginnings through the ’60s, their split in 1970 and their “Concert in Central Park” reunion in 1981.

    Bobo and Smith, along with a live four-piece band, will perform the top Simon and Garfunkel hits including “Mrs. Robinson,” “Cecilia,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Homeward Bound” and many more. The show uses state-of-the-art video projection, photos and original film footage to provide an immersive concert experience.

    “It’s unbelievable how Brendan and my story mirrors Simon and Garfunkel’s in such a close way. We were all Jewish boys who grew up in New York and started performing together in high school as a duo,” says Bobo, who was raised Conservative in a kosher home. “Paul Simon is one of my biggest heroes, so the fact that he is Jewish means a lot to me. To fill the shoes of two iconic Jews with our Jewish feet, I think that’s very special.”

    Bobo and Smith started performing Simon and Garfunkel covers at age 14 for their high school talent showcase — a big deal then, according to Bobo, since students typically don’t get cast their first year.

    “Brendan and I bonded over our love of vocal harmony. And while neither of us were big listeners of Simon and Garfunkel before we met, I played guitar and he sang, and we would cut class and go into the stairwell to sing,” says Bobo, who plays guitar onstage in The Simon & Garfunkel Story and also plays the piano, drums, bass, mandolin, banjo, pedal steel, violin, dobro, oud and taishogoto.

    The high school talent showcase was the beginning of Bobo and Smith’s Simon and Garfunkel years and, through high school and college, they would perform songs together by Simon and Garfunkel along with Crosby, Stills and Nash and the Everly Brothers. For two years at Ithaca College, Bobo wrote and worked on the Star of Lennox as an extracurricular project. It was produced senior year and starred Smith as the lead character, Jasper Lamoureaux. Star of Lennox received distinctions from the Richard Rodgers Award Foundation and Eugene O’Neill National Theatre Center.

    “It was a very intense but beautiful show,” said Smith, who graduated in 2019 from Ithaca College with a voice major and theater minor while Bobo graduated with a degree in composition.

    Since then, Bobo and Smith have performed with different bands, and Bobo opened a recording studio where he has been very busy as a music producer. Smith and his brother, Damon, a pianist, recently released a record under the name “The Brightmares,” which is streaming on Spotify, Apple Music and iTunes.

    Coming Full Circle

    And then, during the pandemic, Smith heard about an audition call for The Simon & Garfunkel Story.

    “We both thought that it was a no-brainer for us to audition for the show. Jonah’s agent got us both an appointment, and we auditioned as a duo,” said Smith who, along with Liam Fennecken and Jim Hogan of their group, T.3, made it to the quarterfinals of Season 16 of America’s Got Talent in 2021. While Smith is currently on tour with The Simon & Garfunkel Story, Hogan is in Kimberly Akimbo on Broadway, and Fennecken is in a regional production of Rock of Ages.

    “My mother and her parents were raised Jewish in New York City. My grandparents had a deep love for Simon and Garfunkel because they were two mainstream Jewish boys from Queens. They are thrilled to see me perform this music that they loved so much,” Smith added.

    Just 18 days before Bobo turned 26 on Jan. 24, he and Smith started on The Simon & Garfunkel Story tour.

    “This whole thing is really serendipity,” says Bobo, who has it written in his contract that he will not perform in shows during Passover so that he can be home in New York with his family. “It means a lot to us that what we’ve been doing for the past 10 years, we can now perform this tribute to Simon and Garfunkel on such a large scale to thousands of people across the country. It’s unbelievable.”

    The Simon & Garfunkel Story will be performed at the Music Hall in Detroit at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 18. Tickets start at $34 (includes facility fee) and can be purchased online at www.BroadwayinDetroit.com, www.ticketmaster.com and in person at the Fisher Theatre Box Office. The Music Hall is located at 350 Madison Ave. in Detroit. For more information, visit www.thesimonandgarfunkelstory.com.


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