THE queen of reinvention has reinvented herself once more. From virgin bride to sex worker; from geisha to goth; from material girl to humanitarian; Madonna is now an Australian man.
Gone are the days of stadium gigs and world tours, she is currently performing solo at a more intimate cabaret venue — this was the smallest audience she had ever played she said.
And instead of gyrating uncontrollably against the walls and floors, she sits lady-like at a piano, with a cup of tea.
Michael Griffiths’ new cabaret show In Vogue — Songs by Madonna is so not Madonna.
Read our interview with Michael Griffiths here.
Griffiths makes no attempt to impersonate the real deal. He speaks with his Australian accent. He is dressed as himself. And he can actually sing (ouch!).
In between hits from her back catalogue, Griffiths as Madonna gives an autobiographical take of her rise to fame, her song-writing, her acting career, her love life, and her children. The parallels between Madonna’s story and the lyrics (which she wrote herself) are surprising – they are not simply good rhymes, but express something much more personal.
For example, before she found success, Madonna would stand on the street corner handing out flyers promoting her music. This anecdote led into the first verse of Open Your Heart:
I see you on the street and you walk on by.
You make me wanna hang my head down and cry.
If you gave me half a chance you’d see
My desire burning inside of me
But you choose to look the other way.
The musical arrangements of these iconic pop tunes, written by Griffiths and acclaimed musical theatre maestro Dean Bryant, are stunning and highly emotive. All of the songs work with only a piano accompaniment, and within Griffiths’ vocal range. The highlights include Substitute for Love, which leads into Like a Virgin, mashed with a little bit of Ray of Light. And Express Yourself, which sees Madonna giving a master class on writing pop songs.
Her music may not be every one’s cup of tea, but Madonna is undeniably very talented. Being able to identify her hits from the opening chord or first line of lyrics, is a testament to her song writing ability. Performing these numbers as Griffiths does, where the lyrics are the champion, pays respect to this often forgotten feature of the iconic pop artist.
Music aside, Griffiths’ jokes and his interaction with the audience are slightly disappointing. Most of the humour should derive from the ridiculousness of how far apart this version of Madonna is from the real thing, yet it feels confusing. Particularly because he doesn’t stay in character, and begins talking to the audience as himself, sharing his experience as an Australian visiting London, and shopping for Christmas. Though he is very likeable, and talented as a singer and musician, this part of the routine needs sharpening.
Griffiths also stops singing to read lyrics Madonna has penned in a diary. This prop does not enhance the show in any real way, rather it interrupts the pleasure of listening to his beautiful piano playing and singing.
If you’re a Madonna fan, hearing these new unplugged versions of all her classic hits will make you fall in love with them all over again. And if you’re not a fan, this show is about the furthest thing from a Madonna concert. So come on, Vogue.
In Vogue — Songs by Madonna is at St James Theatre until 22 December 2013. Click here to book tickets or call the St James Theatre Box Office on 0844 264 2140.