09
Sep
13

In Vogue: Songs by Madonna

 

In Vogue: Songs By Madonna

Brisbane Powerhouse

Powerhouse Visy Theatre

5 – 7 September 2013

 

Reviewed by Jenn Jay

 

We adored him as the effervescent Bob Crewe in Jersey Boys and now Brisbane has seen cabaret star, Michael Griffiths, very comfortable in his own skin and it seems, in that of Pop Diva Madonna’s, “the most famous bitch on the planet!”

 

 

A capacity crowd at the Powerhouse’s Visy Theatre were entertained by Michael Griffiths in his one man cabaret show, In Vogue: Songs by Madonna. The moment he stepped onto the stage, Michael slipped into his Madonna persona, opening the evening with a brilliant rendition of Vogue. Michael’s confident and sassy character immediately consumed the room.

 

For the next hour, Griffiths played the grand piano, serenading the audience with his unique versions of Madonna’s songs, broken often by humorous, crude banter. There is nothing like listening to a performer who really knows how to hold a tune, but who makes you laugh as well. Camp humour flowed freely to great effect.

 

As a fan of Madonna’s music (hard not to be a fan, growing up in the 80’s), I was keen to observe how a male would portray Madonna.  No costumes, wigs, American accent or cone-style bras in sight, just Michael dressed immaculately as himself, impersonating Madonna.

 

Michael uses his smooth and sexy voice to confidently belt out a selection of her most recognisable songs. His expert pianist skills lifted the entertainment level another notch. The Visy theatre provided the perfect intimate atmosphere for this kind of show.  You felt welcome in Michael’s Madonna’s living room.

 

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In character, Madonna laments that no-one buys music anymore – it’s all pirated and she no longer receives any royalties. (Like that’s going to hurt her billion dollar empire!) Many quips flow throughout the show, including a few digs towards Madonna’s best buddy, Lady Gaga. She is “probably going through my back catalogue right now.”

 

The question, “Was I a virgin or a whore?” leads into a highly entertaining version of Like a Virgin.

 

Michael introduces us to the song with the click of the fingers providing the beat, the ivories the melody and his powerful voice, the song. There are many references to Madonna’s diva ways, how she eats people up, then spits them out after she has got what she wanted. The show is peppered with camp, dry humour and bitchy, rude interpretations of Madonna’s life.

 

The audience loves it.

 

The show is slick, fast paced, hilariously clever and the music is top class. Written and directed by Dean Bryant, the script showcases his satirical genius and is interwoven smoothly with the music provided by the very talented Griffiths. The audience was taken on a paradoxical version of Madonna’s life journey.

 

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Michael, who wrote all the musical arrangements himself, has performed the show overseas, including sold out shows at the Edinburgh Festival. His New York performances – Madge’s home town – failed to draw a large crowd, “due mostly to the small back-street venue, that could hold only about 10 people”, Michael revealed in our post-show chat.

 

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If you are familiar with Madonna’s persona and music you will more easily relate to the show and the humour, but even if you are not, Michael is an accomplished performer. The only complaint I have is it was over too quickly – 65 minutes felt more like 30.

 

“Why was I so successful, dressed like a slut?”

 

Why indeed?

 

 

Notes from the ed:

 

Michael also has his superb Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox. It’s a MUST-SEE! X

 

bryantandfrank.wordpress.com is a must-follow for fans of cabaret, music and musical theatre. One of the better theatre blogs out there, it gives great insight into the machinations (and minds) behind the works. I have to include this extract from a fascinating blog post from Dean Bryant, which gives you a good idea of how Madonna followed on from Britney Spears: The Cabaret, which I loved so much! In fact, they were already well and truly onto it (no surprises there, with Lisa Campbell on board!), when I noted The creative team behind Britney Spears: The Cabaret could be onto something. There is a new genre here, not only a reinvention of cabaret during massive cabaret resurgence but also a fresh approach to telling the story – real or imagined – behind the star. Imagine Christina: The Cabaret, Robbie Williams: The Cabaret, Lady GaGa: The Cabaret. What about Whitney: The Cabaret? Too soon? The format is deftly crafted cabaret and it has a sizable audience. x

 

Here’s what Dean Bryant noted:

 

Then came Madonna.  I really didn’t want to write this show.  The only reason I did is because it was my best friend Michael’s idea (the Michael who introduced me to Britney).  Michael and I studied together at WAAPA and have been best friends ever since.  He’s one of the most employable actors in musical theatre because he can sing, act, is tall and dance enough to get by.  He’s also happy to do ensemble and cover, which is a dream for any producer.  During our stint together on the original cast of Priscilla, he started doing ten-minute slots of cabaret at various functions.  And he was brilliant.  Not “I’m supporting my friend because he’s having a go” brilliant but actually comedically amazing, musically brilliant and exactly what cabaret should be.  So I started pushing him to do something for himself.  Instead he did chorus in Jersey Boys.  Well, it’s a wage.

 

But then after I’d done a few Adelaide Cabaret Festivals he said, I wanna do a show.  About Madonna.  Because Britney had already had a few seasons, I was loathe to tread that ground.  But he had a unique take – Christie impersonates Britney, it’s like an Alan Bennett monologue with songs about her life.  But Michael was going to do Madge without any attempt at accent, costume or wig.  Just say, I am her, so let’s get going.  Lisa Campbell was intrigued, but only if Michael would accompany himself at the piano.  Which he can do, luckily.  This was the stroke of genius because it turned his show into something very specific, a recital, essentially, of Madonna’s music.  I said from the start I didn’t want to biopic the script, because I’d done that on Britney, Newley and Liza.  Michael started sending me arrangements of the songs he was interested in, and they started sending ideas into my head of how they could fit.  In a biopic.  So I wrote a biopic script.  We were getting together to work the script for a few days, and Michael, who had professed to love my draft, spent the day rewriting the script.  So when I turned up at his house to begin the rehearsal process, there was an entirely new script waiting for me.  This led to the only real fight we’ve ever had in our friendship.  But the outcome of this (apart from a trip to Stonewall) was that we made a show that was original and unique.

 

Michael really wanted to push the idea that Madonna is an unsaluted songwriter.  So we went through all her lyrics and found key quotes, and then shaped the story around the idea that she was giving a masterclass from the piano of how to use your life to write pop.  Once we’d shaped that, thrown in a guest appearance from Justin Timberlake and a trip through the infamous “Sex” book, we had a show…

 

Michael is even better with an audience than I thought he would be.  Apart from the truly virtuoustic skill of being able to accompany yourself, sing and do dialogue, he can improvise hilarious dialogue on a moment’s notice.  Whenever I watch him do the show I am ridiculously proud of his talent and gratified that I had a part in making sure the world has seen it now.

 

Read more here.

 

 

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2 Responses to “In Vogue: Songs by Madonna”


  1. September 9, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Thank you and for the fabulous edit. xx

    Kind Regards,

    Jennifer Johnston

    Freelance Writer and Blogger

    Mobile: 0404 769 060

    email:jjohn44@optusnet.com.au

    blog: http://jennjaytales.wordpress.com

    skype: jenn.jay2013

    twitter: @jennjay84

    _____


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