Posts Tagged ‘Lisa Campbell


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.




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.




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.




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 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.




World Theatre Day

Happy World Theatre Day!

How are you celebrating?

What does theatre mean to you?

Of course, you might know that it is also Earth Hour tonight! We are deferring our candlelit conversation until after the show, which is – very artfully – dimly lit anyway, so we are doing our bit to conserve energy even as we perform.

We previewed La Ronde on Wednesday and opened on Thursday. Today, on World Theatre Day, the Sunshine Coast Daily has given us not one, not two but three stories! (That’s right! That is unheard of! And on Mooloolaba Triathlon Weekend!) It also seems that word of mouth continues to spread like wildfire. Thanks to the awesome power of social media marketing, this thing went viral a few weeks ago. Bookings have been strong and if you don’t want to miss out, you’ll make sure you see La Ronde in Noosa before April 3rd or in Mooloolaba on the 9th, 10th, 16th or 17th of April.

Interestingly, there is a lot of talk amongst the local artists at the moment about reciprocal networking and about supporting each other in this crazy industry. If networking is NOT reciprocal, how is it WORKING? Ah ha! I hear you! I know! It’s really hard to get to everything. There is so much good stuff happening and we are all busy doing our own thing. It’s incredibly frustrating. I hate missing anything. I am guilt-ridden. However, I am frequently impressed by the Facebook messages, status updates, comments, links, blogs and tweets, referring to ticket sales and the friends who are able to move heaven and Earth to make it to a show before closing night in order to show their support for their peers (and enjoy a great show)! So much for the poor, sleepy little country cousin Brisvegas and it’s even poorer, sleepier, half-cousin-twice-removed Sunshine Coast. It seems everybody I know is getting busy making theatre! KEEP MAKING IT, KEEP TALKING ABOUT IT, KEEP SUPPORTING IT AND PROMOTING IT. We will all get to as much as we possibly can. Promise.

Dame Judi Dench says, in her message for World Theatre Day 2010, that “theatre comes about through team work.” And so does the continuation of the growth and support of the industry, at any level. Well, we knew that. It’s just hard (because we may be time poor, energy poor and quite simply POOR) to commit to booking tix and just doing it. I know that “Break a leg” posted on your Facebook wall sometimes means disappointment because you realise THAT friend/fan/influential industry type is unable to attend your show…but it IS a show of support and it’s the least we can do in lieu of attendance sometimes.

The response from La Ronde attendees has, thus far, been overwhelmingly positive (*collective sigh of relief is heard across South-East Queensland*) Already, audiences have told us that they didn’t really know what to expect so in a way there were no surprises. And yet they were surprised and challenged to not only feel comfortable joining us for the journey, no matter what we threw at them but to consider the context and the truth in which each story was told. Actually, most audience members, at least for the film makers, have been unsure about how they really feel at the end of the show. It seems that some can’t just sum it up. Although we can safely assume that not everybody is ready for their close up upon leaving the theatre, we have seen many audience members stumble out of the theatre, completely lost for words and not even sure whether or not they are ready for a drink! Now, there’s no interval, remember; how can they NOT be ready for a drink?! The most common comment, along with those below, has been, “Oh. Um. I have to think about it. I have to see it again…”

Audience comments for camera and from the conversations with the cast have included:

That was fantastic!

I loved it but I hated that scene (everybody describes a different scene)…

I shuddered and I loved it.

The girls gave me shivers. So beautiful. So sad. Something made me remember…

This is the best show I’ve seen on this stage.

This is the best show I’ve seen on the Sunshine Coast.

That is how they do theatre in Europe.

Very European.




Frightening, challenging, stunning theatre. I’ll be back to see it again.

I’ve booked again for next week. I want my friend to see this show.




So. I’m thrilled to be a part of this very clever production and I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing on World Theatre Day than performing and then live-tweeting the backstage antics and dressing room fun (last night it was stealing Easter eggs from under the stage manager’s nose).

What does theatre mean to me then? All of this and more! It may not be as eloquent as I intend it to be but you’re reading it in every post. That we can stage something that makes people uncertain about how they feel, especially about very specific controversial subjects, that we can explore the vastly different approaches to the way in which we present these taboo topics, that we can challenge our audiences to question and consider their own social mores and private habits and they enjoy it and that the process by which we have reached this point continues, allowing us to keep growing and nurturing each other as artists and showing other artists that anything is possible, is something to be realised every day. I’m proud to celebrate today (and tonight, in candlelight at a dear friend’s place, after the worker lights have come up, the white pancake has come off and the audience has left after the empties have been collected by our dedicated and beautifully presented Front of House staff) but I do believe we get more joy from a thing that is celebrated and shared every day. Luckily for me, just like these entertainment industry power couples who are leading the way, I get to share it all long after we leave the theatre…

Of course, there are different challenges associated with that but we’ll save it for another post, shall we?

Theatre means there are some challenges, some discoveries and some joy every day. How lucky are we?!

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton

Lisa and David Campbell

Sam and Xanthe Coward