Andrew Wade always enjoyed acting as well as singing, and when he made the decision to do both at the same time, a very busy musical theater career was born.
"I kept things separate for a while," said Wade, a New York City-based actor who plays Art Garfunkel in "The Simon & Garfunkel Story," coming to Proctors for one night only Friday at 7:30 p.m. "I really didn't start doing musicals until my late teens, but I when I finally made musical theater the priority, it was a pretty good marriage."
Simon and Garfunkel are arguably the top American folk-rock duo of all time. They were wildly successful throughout the second half of the 1960s before splitting up in 1971. A 1981 reunion concert in New York's Central Park attracted more than 500,000 people, at the time the largest concert crowd ever.
"We cover about 20 years in the show, starting with then when they were known as Tom and Jerry, up through to the reunion concert," said Wade. "We sing 31 songs and in between we tell their story in third person. We do our best to portray their relationship and tell the whole arc of their story."
While Wade plays Garfunkel, the lead vocalist on most of their songs, George Clements is Paul Simon, the guitar player and the team's prolific songwriter. The two grew up just blocks from each other in the Forest Hills section of Queens, and were singing together by the time they were in middle school. They enjoyed some modest success as Tom and Jerry before college got in the way of their partnership. But not for long.
In 1964 they joined forces again and in October of that year, as Simon and Garfunkel, recorded their first album which included the single, "The Sound of Silence." The song, however, didn't become a hit until 1966, and by then the twosome were becoming wildly popular, following up their first big success with "Mrs. Robinson" in 1968, "The Boxer" in 1969 and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in 1970. All reached No. 1 on the pop charts.
Elliott Dean, a veteran West End performer, portrayed the original Paul Simon in the show's world premiere in London in 2014, and continues to serve as the show's director. It is still playing on the West End and has toured internationally since its opening. The current tour is stopping in 50 cities across the U.S. and Canada,
"It certainly lends itself to older audiences," said Wade, who grew up near Portland, Oregon. "We see older and middle-aged audiences, but the younger people who have been coming seem to absolutely love it. The show's been very well received wherever we go. It's been a great experience."
Along with singing and acting while he was growing up, Wade was a serious baseball player.
"Baseball often conflicted time-wise with musical theater, and baseball was my priority," said Wade. "I sang at all the church programs when I was younger, but I didn't really do much musical theater. Then I got the roll of Freddy Eynsford-Hill in 'My Fair Lady' and everything changed. I loved that song and I wanted to sing it so I auditioned and got it. I knew if I wasn't going to play baseball when I got older that musical theater was going to be my new priority."
Wade got his musical theater degree from the University of Portland 10 years ago now and has been busy working ever since.
"I was working on a German cruise line a couple of years ago when I saw an audition notice for the show," said Wade. "I sent in a video of me singing and didn't hear anything right away. That was fine because I don't think I was ready to do Art Garfunkel at that point, at least not from a vocal perspective. But then I got a call and underwent a vigorous audition process. We had a bunch of different Simons and Garfunkels there and we all sang songs with different partners for about six hours. It was a long day."
When Wade learned that he had earned the gig, he immediately started researching his character.
"Art is such a unique and iconic character," said Wade. "It's interesting and challenging to portray a historic person. I watched him in a lot of interviews and that helped me understand the role. Both he and Paul Simon are incredibly deep thinkers and thoughtful guys. Somebody asked Art when he realized that he had something special, vocally, and he responded by saying when he was 4 or 5. So he's obviously someone who never doubted for one second their ability. Some people may read that as arrogance, but I don't think so. I think he is just confident and he wants to share with his audience that he loves what he does."
Wade says he has two favorites when it comes to the Simon and Garfunkel songbook.
"I only had heard about a third of the songs we do when rehearsals started," said Wade. "But I love 'America,' which is a Paul Simon song, and the song I love singing the most is 'Bridge Over Troubled Water.' I think our voices fit pretty well. I found a technique that helped me to do my best Art Garfunkel voice, and it's really not much of a strain on me. I feel pretty comfortable."
Along with his vocal talents, Wade also plays several instruments, including the guitar, piano, mandolin and standup bass. He has appeared on the Off-Broadway stage and around the world, including productions such as "West Side Story," "RENT," "Jersey Boys" and "Little Women."
Clements, meanwhile, born and raised in the Chicago area, is primarily a musician and spends much of his time performing with a Boston-area group called the Lonely Heartstring Band. In "The Simon and Garfunkel Story," Clements and Wade are accompanied by a small orchestra.
'The Simon and Garfunkel Story'
Where: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
HOW MUCH: $50-$20
MORE INFO: Visit www.proctors.org, or call (518) 346-6204