Several years ago KUSH Comedy presented a narrative series at New York City’s Triad Theatre (now Stage 72) called ‘Celebrity Autobiography’.
The deceptively simple set – up involved well – known American actors, stand – up comics and talk show hosts re – interpreting book excerpts by the likes of Miley Cyrus, Tommy Lee, Vanna White, Ivana Trump, David Hasselhof and Susanne Somers.
Artists such as Michael Urie from television’s ‘Ugly Betty’ (reading Miley Cyrus), Richard Kind from ‘Mad About You’ (reading Vanna White) and Kristin Wiig from the movie blockbuster, ‘Bridesmaids’ (reading Susanne Somers) deliberately played the exercise poker – face straight. But in doing so, this made their tongue – in – cheek takes on each D – List subject’s thoughtful prose and wistful observations so ludicrous and hilariously self – indulgent, it left transfixed audiences begging for more.
(These must – see clips and several others may be found on You Tube, and have to be savoured first – hand to be believed.)
Pushing this particular envelope even further in his brilliant act ‘In Vogue: Songs by Madonna’, Michael Griffiths is a mainstay of the Australian stage and cabaret circuit. With a self – confessed obsession for eighties’ pop, the versatile performer is also a singer, pianist, actor, composer and musical arranger.
A graduate of WAAPA, Griffiths has toured extensively both locally and overseas in productions such as ‘We Will Rock You’, ’Shout!’, and ’Priscilla: Queen of The Desert’. Further, he played the character of Bob Crewe for more than four years in the Australian hit, ‘Jersey Boys’. (The role earned Griffiths a prestigious Green Room Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor as well.)
There is no question that Madonna is a world – wide marketing sensation.
The diva’s drive and determination to make a name for herself in the cutthroat music industry is well – documented. In fact, she quickly became a one – woman brand with global record, compact disc and download sales in the millions to prove it. Madonna first exploded onto the scene over thirty years ago, riding the MTV wave with hits such as ‘Borderline’, ‘Lucky Star’, ‘Holiday’, ‘Vogue’, ‘Like A Prayer’, ‘True Blue’, ‘Papa Don’t Preach’, and her career – defining anthem to female self – empowerment, ‘Like A Virgin’.
Though Griffiths has performed ‘In Vogue’ previously as a stand – alone vehicle, this year it was one of the hysterical highlights from the 30th Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
For one memorable night only at The Yarraville Club, the knowledgeable audience at the popular, city – adjacent venue, immediately embraced the quick – witted Griffiths into their collective hearts. Since Madonna herself played Melbourne just last month, his decision to repeat this mocking (yet ultimately loving) tribute right now could not be more perfectly – timed.
So, when Griffiths was introduced to last week’s enthusiastic crowd as The Queen of Pop, watching his looming six foot – plus frame (combined with a wide Cheshire Cat grin) first walk on stage, only made the incongruity of it all even funnier.
His choice to document Madonna’s meteoric rise and rocky personal life with intermittent diary – extracts was inspired, and subtly underlined her self – aware, navel – gazing. Late in the act, Griffiths further reinforced her seeming – narcissism with a quick flick through the controversial coffee – table book, ‘Sex’. Peppered with crackling x – rated quips that would make the likes of Shaun Micallef proud, watching him give his naughty slant on Madonna’s ‘artistic’ soft porn was an eye – popping moment indeed.
Of course the act’s highlight is Griffiths’ application of his expert cabaret stylings to Madonna’s extensive song book. He gives some of her best – known tunes a depth, poignancy and graceful sophistication which is nothing short of breath – taking.
Finally, as a testament to Griffiths’ consummate performance skills and effortless stage charisma, he encouraged (and got) the packed audience to sing along with him. Is it any wonder this hour – long show simply flew by!
(Search You Tube for some of Griffiths’ other vocal offerings including Sweet Dreams: Songs by Annie Lennox. It should be noted that earlier in 2016, Griffiths debuted his latest show, ‘Cole’, reimagining the legendary work of Cole Porter as well.)