Tag: Michael Griffiths

REVIEW: Michael Griffiths is IN VOGUE

Strike a pose

By Ross Larkin

A young man singing and playing Madonna songs on the piano, and assuming her as a ‘character’, relaying snippets of life anecdotes between tunes?

In Vogue

You’d be forgiven for rolling your eyes at the very notion.

However, I’m willing to risk offending many a die-hard Madonna nut, by going so far as to say, that Michael Griffiths, a WAAPA graduate of Jersey Boys fame, has more talent in his little pinkie than the material girl could fantasise about. Yet, Griffiths’ extraordinary talent is undermined by the show’s non-musical content.

Madonna is widely both loved and laughed at. Her unprecedented success and fame go hand-in-hand with immense failures, criticism and controversy: selling bucket-loads of records one minute, and being scorned for acting attempts and outlandish behaviour the next.

Griffith’s portrayal and director Dean Bryant’s vision for this year’s Midsumma Festival show no shame in showcasing Madonna in her weaker light, highlighting her often shallow lyrics and narcissistic ways to the point of mockery, even bordering on disrespect. Yet: cue the singing and playing and we’re suddenly enchanted by gorgeous and moving renditions of ‘Like a Prayer’, ‘Material Girl’ and other well-known pop classics, basking in the typically ambient lighting of fortyfivedownstairs and sounding more glorious than ever.

Sure, the aim of the dialogue is to be lighthearted and fun. Yet, unlike the duo’s other popular cabaret celebrating and portraying the career and personal life of Annie Lennox (Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox, playing in conjunction with this show for Midsumma), In Vogue lacks elegant cohesion and purpose, and therefore struggles to flow as engagingly as it should. Whereas Sweet Dreams beautifully combined the heartbreaking (and often humorous) tales of Lennox’s love affair with Dave Stewart, intertwined with brilliant reinterpretations of her songs, In Vogue generally succeeds only where the latter is concerned.

However, Griffiths is such a musical talent that the show is justified by his renditions alone. In fact, I’m always left wanting more and more of his playing. It’s just that, in this case, I could take or leave the script.

In Vogue is playing now until January 26 – Wednesday to Sundays at 9pm at fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.

Bookings at www.midsumma.org.au


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.

Sweet Dreams

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