Exceptional cabaret is made of this
By Ross Larkin
It’s a brave performer indeed, who not only assumes the guise of a celebrity of the opposite sex, but endeavors to perform and ‘become’ Britain’s most successful female artist of all time – cabaret style.
A graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Michael Griffiths has some big shoes to fill. Yet, fill them he does – until they are bursting at the seams.
The former Jersey Boys star, along with director Dean Bryant, have thankfully avoided indulgently churning out Lennox’s ‘best of’ catalogue, one after the other. Rather, they have created a comical, yet heartbreaking narrative of a fascinating artist with nothing but integrity and awe-inspiring skill.
Initially, one might grapple with suspending their disbelief over a young man at a piano, who is not so much paying tribute to Lennox, but portraying her in character.
Yet, wigs, costumes and accents would undoubtedly take Sweet Dreams into less-appropriate tongue-in-cheek pantomime or drag-queen territory.
While die-hard fans may need to overcome some fictional story elements (mostly added for comic relief), the narrative generally stays true to Lennox’s career and personal life, exploring with particular intrigue, her relationship with Eurythmics partner, and former lover, Dave Stewart.
While it’s no secret she and Stewart broke up as a couple just prior to forming Eurythmics in 1981 (which subsequently fueled an often tempestuous working relationship), Bryant and Griffiths have brilliantly used Lennox’s music to shed a clearer light on the meaning of her songs.
Griffiths plays and sings with effortless charm, innovation and finesse, giving new insight into the likes of ‘Who’s that Girl?’, ‘Missionary Man’ and ‘Why’.
Along with a newly-explored meaning of these familiar tracks, is the re-interpretation of the music itself. Griffiths adds a vaudeville charm to the formerly dark, synthesised ‘Love is a Stranger’, and a refreshingly melancholic sadness to pop classic ‘When Tomorrow Comes’ – injecting a gorgeous energy that, dare it be said, surpasses the original.
Sweet Dreams is a mesmerising feast of laughs, sadness and brilliant music showcasing a true icon with style and wit, recommended even for the lesser of Lennox’s fans.
Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox is playing nightly as part of the Melbourne Cabaret Festival until Sunday, July 7 at 7.30pm at 45 Downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.
Bookings on 03 9662 9966 or fortyfivedownstairs.com