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Entries in In Vogue: Songs by Madonna (12)

Thursday
Feb162012

Michael Griffiths' Cabaret Tour Diary Part 10 - Shows and more shows

 

Meeting Petula Clark after her show on Saturday night

 

Wednesday February 15, 2012

It’s the morning of my last show in New York. I have one show in Sydney next Friday 24th and that’ll be the end of my tour and this ‘tour diary’. 

I’m not my usual self today. Whitney Houston’s passing on Saturday has changed the mood here in New York. I must confess I wasn’t a fan of much recent material and it seems she had lost quite a lot of vocal ability, whether through lifestyle or emotional problems - we can only speculate. No one would argue though, that her early talents were simply extraordinary. I loved “How Will I Know” (I still do) and remember when it came out in 1985. I also remember singing along to “The Greatest Love of All” back in the day and thinking the lyric ‘learning to love yourself’ a little peculiar. Granted, I was only about ten years old and perhaps a little young to grasp the pop psychology of it.

I’m a huge Annie Lennox fan too and I think she sums it up perfectly on her fan page:

It’s almost unbearable to think of yet another OUTSTANDING artist being prematurely snuffed out like a light…far too soon. I’m torn between the profound awe I have for the incredible voices of Whitney and Amy, and the horror I feel over the destructive natures of their respective demise. So many phenomenal performers have fallen between the cracks like this. It makes me feel so sad. I’ve been looking at YouTube clips of Whitney today, and reflecting on her tremendous rise to massive fame as a young woman. 
She had it all…Beauty, exceptional talent…fame, wealth… But when the life/work/fame balance gets out of kilter, and you start putting drugs into the mix, it’s completely toxic. What a terrible tragic waste. So sad.

Annie Lennox

On a lighter note, my IN VOGUE performance on Friday was fab. I had a full house and quite a few native New Yorkers had wandered in; I’d love to know how they found out about me! After the show a stranger from the audience grabbed me and wanted to tell me all about living in the same apartment block as Madonna 30 years ago. She told me how she put up a huge black fence around the entire building, much to the horror of all the other tenants! I LOVE hearing stuff like that! She loved the show and we both had a good giggle about it. Jim Caruso also came and now he is my fan, telling esteemed cabaret singer Marilyn Maye on Monday night at Birdland to check out my show tonight! I do hope she comes, I saw her sing and she totally blew me away. More on this later.

On Saturday night, my dear NYC friends Andy and Matt took me out for dinner and to see Petula Clark at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency and it was impossibly fancy. Petula’s best known for the song “Downtown” (which coincidentally I sang in my first cabaret show in Sydney with Lenore Munro and Paul Flynn in the Stables Theatre back in 2000). She was fantastic, especially when she accompanied herself at the piano. “La Vie en Rose” was the highlight.

Sunday was FREEZING cold but I braved my way through the icy wind to see Australian cabaret star Kim Smith perform his show Misfit at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. It was a treat to see his ‘neo-Weimar’ persona light up the stage and finally meet him after hearing his name for so many years. Kim sings in different languages and reinterprets pop songs (from Bjork to Minogue) in a cabaret setting. The second part, we have in common.

Unfortunately, on Sunday night the heating went down as I slept. I’d been waking up cold the last few mornings so gave the thermostat a good yank before I tucked in and it obviously didn’t like me cos it slowly shut down during the night and I woke up in a meat freezer early on Monday morning. Those people who say you can’t catch a cold by being cold obviously haven’t spent the night in a freezer (and I do mean that literally, it was about -7C overnight). I’ve been aching and coughing my guts up ever since. I’m a little worried about how my voice will hold up tonight but, thinking about it today, I’ve had a dream run until now! A little cough or sniffle is nothing I can’t handle.

Monday night was another fab night at Jim Caruso’s Cast Party. Was great to see Jim and his bar manager William – he sings most Mondays and absolutely blows the roof off. As I mentioned earlier, Marilyn Maye performed and silenced the room. She sang ‘My Funny Valentine’ (on the stroke of midnight; Happy Valentines!) and I’m now her biggest fan. I have hit Amazon and ordered all her CDs.

Last night was War Horse at The Lincoln Arts Center. I’ve not seen the Spielberg film adaptation; I’d heard it is best to see it on stage and I’m glad I waited. It’s a stunning production. The horses are a visual triumph and the emotional impact is undeniable. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Today is another ‘pre-show’ quiet day. Hoping that a good hour of yoga will scare off these muscle aches and free up my voice from all the coughing.

Here’s to my last NYC show!

 

Reviews:

“He creates a sense of togetherness in the room, reminding audiences that pop songs aren’t popular because they’re ordinary or vacuous, but because of the joy and connectedness that they inspire in the people who hear them. To miss this show would be even more of a crime than Madonna’s cover of ‘American Pie’.”

Click here to read the Four and a half-star review by ArtsHub reviewer Aleksia Barron.

 

Griffiths’ charming and impish performance sheds new light on Madonna’s songs and career…” - Kate Herbert

Click here to read the four-star review by Sun Herald reviewer Kate Herbert.


“With some impressive arrangements for piano, Griffiths gives the music and lyrics a considerable lift, and together with some clever monologues, injects a lot of humour” - Australian Stage

Click here to read the full review by Vito Mattarelli. 


Michael Griffiths in In Vogue: Songs by Madonna

New York season at Don’t Tell Mama: For tickets and show info, click here.

Sydney season as part of the Slide Cabaret Festival: For tickets and show info, click here.

Read his interview with Cabaret Confessional here.

 

Michael Griffiths Bio:

Performing Arts (WAAPA) with a Bachelor in Music Theatre in 1999 and has a Diploma in Music Composition. Michael is currently performing in Sydney in Jersey Boys. Before this Michael toured Australia and New Zealand in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Michael performed in the Australian and Japanese tour of We Will Rock You!, appeared in the original Australian cast of Shout! and was in the original workshop for the new Australian musical Prodigal. Michael has performed cabaret at Sydney’s legendary Showqueen at the Supper Club and for Koookaburra’s Up Close and Musical series. He enjoyed a sold-out season with his cabaret debut In Vogue: Songs by Madonna at the 2011 Adelaide Cabaret Festival. 

 

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary series

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 1 - Melbourne debut

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 2 - Preparations

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 3 - Mirror Ball

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 4 - The Audience

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 5 - A Collaboration

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 6 - NYC Bound

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 7 -  The Takeoff

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 8 - New York Debut

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 9 - Priscilla

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 10 - Shows and more shows

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 11 - The homecoming

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 12 - Farewell

 

Related post:

Interview: Michael Griffiths salutes Madonna

 

*If you are interested in having your show featured on Cabaret Confessional, click here for more information.

Find out how YOU can become an exclusive Founding Patron of Cabaret Confessional.

Subscribe to Cabaret Confessional via email.

‘Like’ Cabaret Confessional on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Saturday
Feb112012

Michael Griffiths' Cabaret Tour Diary Part 9 - Priscilla

 

Priscilla on Broadway

 

Friday February 10, 2012

OK I’m gonna try and keep this one brief. 

Second IN VOGUE was a smash; big crowd, big laughs and afterwards in the front bar, it felt like an Australian Musical Theatre Convention. So many Aussies in the biz over here, it’s fantastic! Chris Durling, Ben McHugh and I ducked over to Birdland after the show just in time to catch the start of ‘Jim Caruso’s Cast Party’ - a legendary open mic night. I was determined to get up and sing to give my last two shows a little plug. I spotted Jim at the bar, introduced myself and before I knew it was up singing “Express Yourself’” to an audience who weren’t quite sure what I was going on about! Jim was a wonderful host, very welcoming and invited us all out for late night supper, which was a treat. 

On Tuesday, I walked the ‘highline’, an old raised railway track downtown running along 10th Ave that has been beautifully converted into a open public space and walkway with gardens and woodwork. Then I hit Macy’s (The World’s Largest Store - so the sign boasts out front) and by chance stumbled across their ‘One Day Sale’, doing irreparable damage to my MasterCard. 

The evening was very special; I saw Priscilla Queen of the Desert on Broadway.

A drink after Priscilla

Back in winter of 2006 I was in the cold and since condemned (on second thought, no I’m pretty sure they’d already been condemned) rehearsal rooms of the former Brent Street Studios in Waterloo, when a creative team, a cast, a crew and a handful of producers got together drinking coffee, throwing mobile phones out of windows, wearing odd socks, tracksuits and cheap red rehearsal heels. We all launched with trepidation and measured steps into what is now a global phenomenon. 

On Tuesday night, I saw the work we (I say ‘we’ with great humility; hell, I was only in the ensemble - a showgirl emu here, a drag cupcake there..) did six years ago light up a Broadway stage. To say I was moved to tears is an understatement. I loved every minute of it! There were a few little changes (some for better, some for worse) but all in all it was still our heartwarming little drag show; just bigger, louder, glitzier and goddamit, on BROADWAY!!

With Tony Sheldon, never more lovely as Bernadette;

I was led backstage afterwards to meet Tony Sheldon (who has never been more lovely as Bernadette), his partner Tony (two Tonys, yes they know that is insane. Tony’s mum is Toni Lamond - have a think about that!), Nick Adams (who plays a very spunky Felicia), his very handsome partner Kyle (in the ensemble) and Keala (Justin Timberlake on my last show next week!) and we all went out for a bite to eat in Times Square.

Wednesday I went to the Guggenheim Museum (it was closed for renovation last time I was in New York) and enjoyed seeing the Kandinsky collection.

Spent an hour in Central Park and ran into Jim Caruso in the Upper West Side right in front of the building where John Lennon was shot and Rosemary’s Baby was filmed (as you do). He’s coming to IN VOGUE tonight, which makes me very excited. I’ve got some other cabaret mates I met at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in tonight too - Mark Nadler and Margarita Pracatan. Can’t wait to see them both! Shortly after running into Jim, I was wandering down Columbus Ave and it started to snow. I’d never seen snow before in my life and I stood there while it danced around me and cried. I’m going to blame all these tears on jetlag.

With Jim in front of the Rosemary’s Baby building

Chris Durling and I did some fabulous Soho shopping yesterday. We bought clothes and souvenirs but the best find was a street vendor selling ‘Warhol style’ screen printed pop images of Manhattan on brown wrapping paper. We bought prints for $20 bucks each. I’ll frame mine back in Sydney and it’ll look like I spent $2000. Awesome!!

Last night I saw Spiderman. Let’s just say it’s a spectacular disaster of epic proportions.

Third IN VOGUE tonight,  so I’m having a restful day. Am about to go through the script again, then its time for some yoga.

 

 

 

Cabaret Confessional’s new guest blogger Michael Griffiths is a critically acclaimed cabaret and musical theatre performer. He made a spectacular cabaret debut at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival last year with In Vogue: Songs by Madonna. Following his success, he is now touring the show to Melbourne, New York City and Sydney. He will document his time on the road on his tour diary for the next two months.


Reviews:

“He creates a sense of togetherness in the room, reminding audiences that pop songs aren’t popular because they’re ordinary or vacuous, but because of the joy and connectedness that they inspire in the people who hear them. To miss this show would be even more of a crime than Madonna’s cover of ‘American Pie’.”

Click here to read the Four and a half-star review by ArtsHub reviewer Aleksia Barron.

 

Griffiths’ charming and impish performance sheds new light on Madonna’s songs and career…” - Kate Herbert

Click here to read the four-star review by Sun Herald reviewer Kate Herbert.


“With some impressive arrangements for piano, Griffiths gives the music and lyrics a considerable lift, and together with some clever monologues, injects a lot of humour” - Australian Stage

Click here to read the full review by Vito Mattarelli. 


Michael Griffiths in In Vogue: Songs by Madonna

New York season at Don’t Tell Mama: For tickets and show info, click here.

Sydney season as part of the Slide Cabaret Festival: For tickets and show info, click here.

Read his interview with Cabaret Confessional here.

 

Michael Griffiths Bio:

Performing Arts (WAAPA) with a Bachelor in Music Theatre in 1999 and has a Diploma in Music Composition. Michael is currently performing in Sydney in Jersey Boys. Before this Michael toured Australia and New Zealand in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Michael performed in the Australian and Japanese tour of We Will Rock You!, appeared in the original Australian cast of Shout! and was in the original workshop for the new Australian musical Prodigal. Michael has performed cabaret at Sydney’s legendary Showqueen at the Supper Club and for Koookaburra’s Up Close and Musical series. He enjoyed a sold-out season with his cabaret debut In Vogue: Songs by Madonna at the 2011 Adelaide Cabaret Festival. 

 

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary series

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 1 - Melbourne debut

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 2 - Preparations

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 3 - Mirror Ball

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 4 - The Audience

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 5 - A Collaboration

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 6 - NYC Bound

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 7 -  The Takeoff

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 8 - New York Debut

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 10 - Shows and more shows

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 11 - The homecoming

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 12 - Farewell

 

Related post:

Interview: Michael Griffiths salutes Madonna

 

*If you are interested in having your show featured on Cabaret Confessional, click here for more information.

Find out how YOU can become an exclusive Founding Patron of Cabaret Confessional.

Subscribe to Cabaret Confessional via email.

‘Like’ Cabaret Confessional on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

 

Wednesday
Feb082012

Michael Griffiths' Cabaret Tour Diary Part 8 - New York Debut

 

Mike’s Diner

 

 

Sunday February 5, 2012

I’m sitting in Mike’s Diner around the corner from where I’m staying and am having eggs over easy with a bagel and turkey sausage for breakfast. I’m such a creature of habit. I’ve been here every morning so far. It’s kind of like stepping into a time warp. I don’t even mind they’ve only got dirty old filter coffee; it’s the morning after my New York cabaret debut at Don’t Tell Mama and I’m having a wonderful time!

I arrived Thursday night, dumped my stuff off at my producer Jeremy’s apartment in Queens then headed in to Manhattan to meet him and a bunch of his Aussie mates for drinks. We went to a seedy old jazz bar, then an underground gay bar where I got asked for ID at the door. Seriously? I’m pushing 40! On closer inspection of my ‘laugh lines’ the bouncer let me walk right in.

Friday morning, after my first breakfast at Mike’s Diner, I headed into Manhattan alone to get my bearings. I caught the subway to Central Park (which is eerie and gorgeous in winter) and walked south down 5th Ave then all the way to Bleecker St in the Village for a spot of shopping.

Being a massive 30 Rock fan, it was a thrill to see Rockefeller Plaza again and I couldn’t resist buying a T.G.S. (The Girlie Show with Tracey Jordan, the fictional ‘show within the show’) hoodie. I grabbed a couple of locally made hats on Bleecker street and found this fabulous second hand LP store in the village with old horror movie T-shirts - right up my alley!

I met Jeremy in the evening for drinks in Chelsea. We had Mexican for dinner, drank FAR too much then went to a late night session of Sleep No More - a theatre instillation, which is a cross between Macbeth, an Agatha Christie novel, Martha Graham and a House of Horrors that you wander through at your own pace. Quite extraordinary really, but not something I recommend after jugs of margaritas!

I stumbled through it drunk, giddy and confused. I might have to pop back again to that one sober, because it currently is the hot ticket in New York. 

On Saturday I saw The Book of Mormon, my one and only Broadway extravagance. I booked 3 months ago because you simply cannot get tickets while in town. I found a $200 ticket up the back, far more than what you’d usually pay. Then I noticed a premium seat for $350. I crumbled when I saw its location; right in the centre of the stalls. I clicked ‘purchase’ and it was worth every penny. The seat was perfect (when you work in theatre, you become a seat snob) and I absolutely adored the show. It is genius, it deserves all the accolades and the Tony-winning original cast was just incredible. It was easily one of the theatrical highlights of my life.

I had a wonderful coincidence - one of my old Adelaide mates Ben McHugh is here workshopping a new musical at the Atlantic theatre company, Tokio Confidential. It was great to see Ben and I caught a family and friends show on Saturday night. A ‘family and friends’ is essentially is the last full dress rehearsal, giving the cast and creatives a chance to see how things land with a live audience. The piece is gorgeous with a lush score, reminiscent of The Light in the Piazza that I loved at the Lincoln Center a few years back. It’s a chamber piece and all the six voices, with demands of musical theatre and operetta, were very impressive.

Sunday was my first performance. I’d had IN VOGUE bouncing around in the back of my head, running through little difficult passages as I tried to sleep each night but I am determined to make sure it’s equally a holiday. I spent the day working towards my performance. Without an indoor pool nearby, I just do a bit of extra yoga at home to warm up. If I can’t do both vocal warm up and a physical one, I would choose a physical. It gets the blood pumping through the body and makes an undeniable difference to my state of being and vocal ability.

I wandered around Queens on a mission to find a tea pot and matching cup – I have them in the show for a camp touch but it’s also a wonderfully practical way of keeping my vocal chords lubricated.  I found a gorgeous little vintage shop where I got both for $30. In Sydney you’d easily pay 100 bucks for the teapot alone. I love that with the current exchange rate, everything is so CHEAP! I’m tipping everywhere like Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut!

An hour before my first New York performance

With my new tea pot and cup set and my costume, I headed to see my venue for the first time. Ideally I’d go in much earlier to do a solid hour of piano practice and get a feel for the space but Don’t Tell Mama is a very busy venue with many shows each night and we couldn’t get in to the space until an hour before the show. With so many more shows under my belt, I’m happy just rocking up and going with the flow. I met Sidney the owner, who made me feel very welcome and told me how excited he was to finally see the show he’d heard so much about. The lighting and sound guy Jason took me into the venue. We placed the piano on stage for lighting and set the mic at the piano. I gave him a copy of the script with a basic set of lighting instructions and had time for a quick tinkle of the ivories before the ‘half hour call’ and time for me to dress and prepare for opening night.

With New York being in the grip of a Super Bowl frenzy and with Madonna (yes, the REAL Madonna) performing at half time we’d resigned ourselves to  a completely empty house, so it was a pleasant surprise when a small but keen audience began filing in. I was feeling vocally really good and nervous, without being TOO nervous (which is exactly what you want before a show) and after some last minute stretching and vocal scales, I got my ‘beginners call’ from Jason.

The show was fantastic (if I do say so myself!). Miraculously my most accurate so far and the crowd, albeit small, were appreciative and captive. Small audiences are far less likely to laugh aloud but happily the Queen of Pop still managed to tickle a few funny bones and she had enthusiastic spontaneous applause on the final “Excuse me. I’m Madonna, the most famous bitch on the planet. Shut. The F%#K. UP,” which doesn’t always happen, even with full houses.

Sidney was delighted afterwards and came and gave me a big hug in the front bar. It’s impossible under the glare of the lights (and with my poor eyesight) to make out all the faces in the audience during the performance and it was great to see familiar faces file out - friends I hadn’t seen in years and from all over the place had come along. I couldn’t have been happier with my performance and, after hugs and kisses, a big group of us rushed to the gay bar conveniently next door to watch the real Madge lip-synch her spectacular set at the Super Bowl. 

After a bite to eat at a fancy nearby Thai restaurant (I hadn’t eaten since breakfast!), it was time to push on home through the massive crowds in Times Square celebrating the Giants’ win. Hysterical cheering people were everywhere - all insanely happy and proud of their winning team. There were melodic screams of ‘GIANTS’ on the subway all the way home to Queens!

My next show is tonight so it’s another quiet day. Back home now for some yoga.

 

Cabaret Confessional’s new guest blogger Michael Griffiths is a critically acclaimed cabaret and musical theatre performer. He made a spectacular cabaret debut at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival last year with In Vogue: Songs by Madonna. Following his success, he is now touring the show to Melbourne, New York City and Sydney. He will document his time on the road on his tour diary for the next two months.


Reviews:

“He creates a sense of togetherness in the room, reminding audiences that pop songs aren’t popular because they’re ordinary or vacuous, but because of the joy and connectedness that they inspire in the people who hear them. To miss this show would be even more of a crime than Madonna’s cover of ‘American Pie’.”

Click here to read the Four and a half-star review by ArtsHub reviewer Aleksia Barron.

 

Griffiths’ charming and impish performance sheds new light on Madonna’s songs and career…” - Kate Herbert

Click here to read the four-star review by Sun Herald reviewer Kate Herbert.


“With some impressive arrangements for piano, Griffiths gives the music and lyrics a considerable lift, and together with some clever monologues, injects a lot of humour” - Australian Stage

Click here to read the full review by Vito Mattarelli. 


Michael Griffiths in In Vogue: Songs by Madonna

New York season at Don’t Tell Mama: For tickets and show info, click here.

Sydney season as part of the Slide Cabaret Festival: For tickets and show info, click here.

Read his interview with Cabaret Confessional here.

 

Michael Griffiths Bio:

Performing Arts (WAAPA) with a Bachelor in Music Theatre in 1999 and has a Diploma in Music Composition. Michael is currently performing in Sydney in Jersey Boys. Before this Michael toured Australia and New Zealand in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Michael performed in the Australian and Japanese tour of We Will Rock You!, appeared in the original Australian cast of Shout! and was in the original workshop for the new Australian musical Prodigal. Michael has performed cabaret at Sydney’s legendary Showqueen at the Supper Club and for Koookaburra’s Up Close and Musical series. He enjoyed a sold-out season with his cabaret debut In Vogue: Songs by Madonna at the 2011 Adelaide Cabaret Festival. 

 

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary series

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 1 - Melbourne debut

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 2 - Preparations

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 3 - Mirror Ball

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 4 - The Audience

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 5 - A Collaboration

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 6 - NYC Bound

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 7 -  The Takeoff

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 8 - New York Debut

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 9 - Priscilla

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 10 - Shows and more shows

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 11 - The homecoming

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 12 - Farewell

 

Related post:

Interview: Michael Griffiths salutes Madonna

 

*If you are interested in having your show featured on Cabaret Confessional, click here for more information.

Find out how YOU can become an exclusive Founding Patron of Cabaret Confessional.

Subscribe to Cabaret Confessional via email.

‘Like’ Cabaret Confessional on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Saturday
Feb042012

Michael Griffiths' Cabaret Tour Diary Part 7 - The Takeoff

 

En route to New York City

 

 

Thursday February 2, 2012

I’m at 30,000 feet. Just departed SYD and bound for NYC. I can’t remember being this excited about something for a very long time. I figured that by my age (let’s just say I’m not in my twenties anymore) that I’d be well past feeling the excitement I used to about the Royal Adelaide Show each September, fantasising about the Ghost Train, the Mad Mouse and most importantly, the SHOW BAGS!

So I thought I’d use this time (and I have about 15 hours to kill) to give my NYC trip a little back story. Quite simply, I’m sitting on this aeroplane because about two years ago my best friend Dean Bryant said to me at Fitness First Melbourne Central while we were lifting not terribly heavy weights, “We should do a cabaret together.” I nodded vaguely. We continued our workout and not another word on the subject was spoken.

I’d already been very impressed by Dean’s many cabaret success stories. I was in tears at a dress rehearsal of Newley Discovered, struck dumb by Hugh Sheridan’s talent and Dean’s elegant and sophisticated writing. I didn’t feel like I was quite ready to join his stable of cabaret artists yet. Besides, I was busy in Jersey Boys (I still am, years later!), quite content in the ensemble and grateful to be working.

But a seed had been planted. 

Almost a year later, Dean was visiting Sydney and we were having brunch at my favourite local cafe Guilia. That’s when I proposed he and I should do a Madonna cabaret together. I told him I didn’t know how it would happen, but I did know that I have always enjoyed her pop songs immensely. That she is a gifted lyricist and this goes almost entirely unacknowledged. Dean nodded a little unenthusiastically, having recently enjoyed success with his Britney Spears cabaret (starring the multi-talented and gorgeous Christie Whelan) and not in a hurry to re-tread the familiar territory. However, his interest was raised somewhat when I explained I should ‘play’ Madonna but without any attempt to ‘mimic’ her. I’d simply sing her songs (transposed down for my baritone voice) and recount hilarious anecdotes from her triumphant career as the Queen of Pop (and the movies that were a terrible idea right from the start).

We didn’t speak any further about it but Dean must have warmed quietly to the idea because he pitched it to David and Lisa Campbell without me knowing.

I got a phone call from Dean just before Christmas 2010 saying, “The Adelaide Cabaret Festival wants your Madonna show.” I was completely stunned and responded with something like “WHAT Madonna show?” but Dean convinced me that it was a great idea, that he’d write it and I should do the musical arrangements. I said, “NO, I want James Simpson to be my pianist and musical director.” I’d seen Dean’s cabaret show Experiment with Alex Rathgeber and had been blown away by James’ arrangements; he is a very special talent. Dean, however, insisted that I accompany myself and it was the only way the show would work (it was all the budget would allow for, but that may have been kept under wraps for the time being).

I recall us having a mild argument about it. I was certain I wasn’t up to the task of playing for myself for an hour and was concerned at the massive commitment and undertaking this would require. But Dean was quietly confident I’d be fine and we’d be fine so all that was left was to do was organise a week off from Jersey Boys in June and begin writing our little show. 

The Cabaret Festival wanted a title quickly and the first idea I had was IN VOGUE: SONGS BY MADONNA. We tossed around a few other ones but kept coming back to that. I liked the way it referenced her songs, as opposed to it being a tribute or drag show. I also liked the way it incorporated a song title (“Vogue”) but in a different context. One could argue that being ‘in vogue’ has been an integral part of her career and that she has always had an uncanny knack for tapping into the zeitgeist. 

Comfy tracksuit for the long haul. Wearing the Jersey Boys hoodie with pride, makes customs just that little bit easier.

We scheduled a get together in Melbourne early in 2011 to sit down at the piano (funnily enough, at fortyfivedownstairs where we just bumped out our Melbourne season!) so I could play through some early musical ideas and run through a potential song list. It also gave me a chance to see the ten year return of Dean’s Prodigal written with his partner Mathew Frank, which I adored. These were primitive musical doodlings but it gave us both a taste of how her songs would sound stripped back at the piano and with a male voice.

I remember singing “Borderline” (not terribly well), “Rain” (worse still), “Where Life Begins” (no comment) and not much else. Dean sat quietly taking notes and I was a little embarrassed about sounding croaky and playing the piano with little accuracy or finesse. Dean was encouraging though, and we sat down and talked through a list of mostly comic ideas I had for the show, one of which was a ‘show and tell’ with the notorious SEX book but in the context of it being a photo album of happy snaps from home.

With our first ‘meeting’ adjourned, we set about collaborating from afar for five months, me sitting at home and recording little ideas at the piano on GarageBand and emailing them off to Dean wherever he was in the world, trotting about here and there with Priscilla and it’s international demands.  

And that’s how we proceeded to write IN VOGUE – sending emails back and forth, until we scheduled an intensive weekend in Sydney about two weeks before its World Premiere at the 2011 Adelaide Cabaret Festival. By then I had most of the songs under my belt, Dean had given the show its overall structure and cleverly decided which songs would best tell the different parts of her life and career worth discussing. We had a first draft.

After a tricky start to the weekend where Dean arrived to find I’d rewritten about half the script. I was beginning to really panic. and as much as I loved most of the script, there were sections I was worried that weren’t genius. We then proceeded to start from a blank page and work together on the piece, using Dean’s existing song structure and bouncing ideas off each other, cramming in as much of the research we’d done independently so that it was clever, economic, hilarious and, best of all, true. It was also important to us that we kept coming back to her songs and her songwriting talents; a masterclass, if you will.

We pretty much worked non-stop for two days culminating with a read/play through at the piano which ran for about 85 minutes (it was supposed to clock in at an hour) so we set about making little cuts and refinements but were satisfied we had a show and were on the right track. I then had the unenviable task of learning an hour script whilst seated at the piano, playing emotive underscore as I spoke. Harder than it sounds (and I reckon it sounds hard enough).

Thankfully, I was a swing at Jersey Boys, meaning if I weren’t required on stage, I could sit in the Musical Director Luke Hunter’s office and spend hours at the piano, marrying the script with my fingers. 

It all came together. We opened in Adelaide with a bang and it was possibly the most exciting week of my life. I’m Adelaide born and bred but working in the ‘biz’ had kept me away from there for about 10 years. To come home as part of the esteemed Adelaide Cabaret Festival with a one-man show was honestly a dream come true. I’d been as an audience member to a couple of the Adelaide Cabaret Festivals in previous years and had been so impressed with the content and feel of it all. If you’ve not been, it really is something you have to experience for yourself, it’s such a wonderful vibe. I’m not sure if there’s anything else quite like it.

My three shows in Adelaide whizzed by and when a few months later Jersey Boys announced a two month break between Oz and NZ, my first thought was “I wanna to take IN VOGUE to New York.” Audacious, I know, but it’s also a great excuse to catch up with mates over there and see lots of Broadway shows, especially Priscilla with Tony Sheldon, who I had the pleasure of being in the Original Cast with. I know I’ll cry like a baby when I see it. The two-week season I just did in Melbourne for Midsumma fell into place, so it was a case of striking while the iron was hot. The perfect thing to do on a break really!

So here I am at 30,000 feet, a visa in my passport and four dates booked at Don’t Tell Mama. In three sleeps, I make my New York cabaret debut.

 

Cabaret Confessional’s new guest blogger Michael Griffiths is a critically acclaimed cabaret and musical theatre performer. He made a spectacular cabaret debut at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival last year with In Vogue: Songs by Madonna. Following his success, he is now touring the show to Melbourne, New York City and Sydney. He will document his time on the road on his tour diary for the next two months.


Reviews:

“He creates a sense of togetherness in the room, reminding audiences that pop songs aren’t popular because they’re ordinary or vacuous, but because of the joy and connectedness that they inspire in the people who hear them. To miss this show would be even more of a crime than Madonna’s cover of ‘American Pie’.”

Click here to read the Four and a half-star review by ArtsHub reviewer Aleksia Barron.

 

Griffiths’ charming and impish performance sheds new light on Madonna’s songs and career…” - Kate Herbert

Click here to read the four-star review by Sun Herald reviewer Kate Herbert.


“With some impressive arrangements for piano, Griffiths gives the music and lyrics a considerable lift, and together with some clever monologues, injects a lot of humour” - Australian Stage

Click here to read the full review by Vito Mattarelli. 


Michael Griffiths in In Vogue: Songs by Madonna

New York season at Don’t Tell Mama: For tickets and show info, click here.

Sydney season as part of the Slide Cabaret Festival: For tickets and show info, click here.

Read his interview with Cabaret Confessional here.

 

Michael Griffiths Bio:

Performing Arts (WAAPA) with a Bachelor in Music Theatre in 1999 and has a Diploma in Music Composition. Michael is currently performing in Sydney in Jersey Boys. Before this Michael toured Australia and New Zealand in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Michael performed in the Australian and Japanese tour of We Will Rock You!, appeared in the original Australian cast of Shout! and was in the original workshop for the new Australian musical Prodigal. Michael has performed cabaret at Sydney’s legendary Showqueen at the Supper Club and for Koookaburra’s Up Close and Musical series. He enjoyed a sold-out season with his cabaret debut In Vogue: Songs by Madonna at the 2011 Adelaide Cabaret Festival. 

 

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary series

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 1 - Melbourne debut

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 2 - Preparations

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 3 - Mirror Ball

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 4 - The Audience

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 5 - A Collaboration

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 6 - NYC Bound

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 7 -  The Takeoff

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 8 - New York Debut

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 9 - Priscilla

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 10 - Shows and more shows

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 11 - The homecoming

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 12 - Farewell

 

Related post:

Interview: Michael Griffiths salutes Madonna

 

*If you are interested in having your show featured on Cabaret Confessional, click here for more information.

Find out how YOU can become an exclusive Founding Patron of Cabaret Confessional.

Subscribe to Cabaret Confessional via email.

‘Like’ Cabaret Confessional on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Wednesday
Feb012012

Michael Griffiths' Cabaret Tour Diary Part 6 - NYC Bound

 

The Queen of Pop taking her bow on the final Melbourne show

 

Wednesday February 1, 2012 

So I’m back home in Sydney and leaving for New York first thing tomorrow morning. Haven’t packed yet and the sun is starting to go down but it’s all good. I feel excited, confident and ready, as I’ll ever be.

Melbourne ended on a triumphant high and I couldn’t be happier. The last two shows were my most accurate and controlled and Madge has now settled deep into my bones. 

Had a little upset yesterday when just as I was leaving for dinner, I noticed that my passport wasn’t in its usual spot. I did a quick search through the house to no avail. I had no time to spare and had to rush out the door in a mild state of panic for a degustation at Sepia that had been booked months ago. After a couple of glasses of wine I managed to calm myself down and enjoyed the eight stunning courses. I reassured myself it simply had to be at home, because it was only a couple of weeks ago that we sat on the lounge, laughing at the goofy picture of me on my US B1/2 VISA. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but run through all the worst-case scenarios and possible backup plans as each spectacular course was cleared for the next. What does happen when you turn up to an International Airport sans passport? Do I apologise via status update on Facebook and refund any tickets sold? Do I get arrested and put into ‘airport jail’? Do I finally make my television debut on Border Control? It would have been a complete disaster, but of course it turned up the minute my partner Daryl had a look for it when we arrived home full bellied three hours later. 

Speaking of tickets sold, I have absolutely no idea if there are any advance sales and (just like with the Melbourne season) I’m actually too afraid to ask. Best not to worry about those sorts of things and leave it to my New York producer, Jeremy Youett. We met years ago in the ensemble of Priscilla Queen of the Desert where we both dressed up as drag paintbrushes and assorted long-lashed and leggy Australian flora and fauna. Lucky for me, he’s ended up a cabaret producer based in NYC, so I immediately contacted him back when Jersey Boys holiday dates were announced. And here we are, some three months later I’m about to board a plane!

It’s a terrible cliché, but it doesn’t feel real yet. I suppose it won’t until I arrive at the airport early in the morning, bleary eyed and Madge style in a comfy tracksuit! 

Here’s to a safe and painless flight.

 

My writer/director Dean Bryant talks about our Melbourne season in his blog:

http://bryantandfrank.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/britney-and-madonna/

 

Cabaret Confessional’s new guest blogger Michael Griffiths is a critically acclaimed cabaret and musical theatre performer. He made a spectacular cabaret debut at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival last year with In Vogue: Songs by Madonna. Following his success, he is now touring the show to Melbourne, New York City and Sydney. He will document his time on the road on his tour diary for the next two months.


Reviews:

“He creates a sense of togetherness in the room, reminding audiences that pop songs aren’t popular because they’re ordinary or vacuous, but because of the joy and connectedness that they inspire in the people who hear them. To miss this show would be even more of a crime than Madonna’s cover of ‘American Pie’.”

Click here to read the Four and a half-star review by ArtsHub reviewer Aleksia Barron.

 

Griffiths’ charming and impish performance sheds new light on Madonna’s songs and career…” - Kate Herbert

Click here to read the four-star review by Sun Herald reviewer Kate Herbert.


“With some impressive arrangements for piano, Griffiths gives the music and lyrics a considerable lift, and together with some clever monologues, injects a lot of humour” - Australian Stage

Click here to read the full review by Vito Mattarelli. 


Michael Griffiths in In Vogue: Songs by Madonna

New York season at Don’t Tell Mama: For tickets and show info, click here.

Sydney season as part of the Slide Cabaret Festival: For tickets and show info, click here.

Read his interview with Cabaret Confessional here.

 

Michael Griffiths Bio:

Performing Arts (WAAPA) with a Bachelor in Music Theatre in 1999 and has a Diploma in Music Composition. Michael is currently performing in Sydney in Jersey Boys. Before this Michael toured Australia and New Zealand in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Michael performed in the Australian and Japanese tour of We Will Rock You!, appeared in the original Australian cast of Shout! and was in the original workshop for the new Australian musical Prodigal. Michael has performed cabaret at Sydney’s legendary Showqueen at the Supper Club and for Koookaburra’s Up Close and Musical series. He enjoyed a sold-out season with his cabaret debut In Vogue: Songs by Madonna at the 2011 Adelaide Cabaret Festival. 

 

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary series

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 1 - Melbourne debut

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 2 - Preparations

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 3 - Mirror Ball

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 4 - The Audience

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 5 - A Collaboration

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 6 - NYC Bound

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 7 -  The Takeoff

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 8 - New York Debut

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 9 - Priscilla

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 10 - Shows and more shows

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 11 - The homecoming

Michael Griffiths’ Cabaret Tour Diary Part 12 - Farewell

 

Related post:

Interview: Michael Griffiths salutes Madonna

 

*If you are interested in having your show featured on Cabaret Confessional, click here for more information.

Find out how YOU can become an exclusive Founding Patron of Cabaret Confessional.

Subscribe to Cabaret Confessional via email.

‘Like’ Cabaret Confessional on Facebook and follow us on Twitter