Review | Michael Griffiths at the Perth International Cabaret Festival

Michael Griffiths

Michael Griffiths | His Majesty’s Theatre | 20th July 2021 | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Michael Griffiths is celebrating a decade of working in the world of cabaret, back in 2011 he pivoted from the world of musical theatre into the artform of songs and stories and he’s never looked back. 

It’s an artform he’s certainly mastered, and it’s no surprise the team behind the inaugural Perth International Cabaret Festival tapped him to be their Artistic Director.  Alongside his own successful shows, he’s also worked with many other artists including Carlotta and Steven Oliver – whose shows are also on the bill for later this week. 

Having toured the globe with his tribute shows to Madonna, Annie Lennox. Kylie and Cole Porter, Griffiths thought the perfect show to round of the decade would be a Greatest Hits collection of all those different presentations, and like all Greatest Hits compilations there’s a couple of obligatory new tunes thrown in too. 

Whether you’ve seen him before or it’s your first time in his presence, it’s a delightfully fun experience. Taking to the stage he opened up the show with Tainted Love, and joked with the audience that a lot of the material would be from the 1980’s given the subjects of his best known tribute shows pretty much all hit their heights in the decade of leg warmers and shoulder pads.    

“I won’t be doing a Soft Cell tribute show in the future.” he said in reference to his opening number, noting it would be a really short tribute show. Personally I thought Wave Hello, Say Goodbye would be perfect fodder for a very short micro-tribute show, it could serve as both an opening number and a finale. We can only hope it appears as a late night fringe experience in 2022.

Over the course of the evening Griffiths regaled the audience with memories of growing up in suburban Adelaide, covering his bedroom walls with posters of A-ha, and purchasing his first album – it was The Nolans.

Tragically his reminisces of the work of Bernie, Colleen, Maureen, Anne and Linda didn’t lead into a slamming rendition of I’m in the Mood for Dancing, which was a pity because I sensed most of the audience owned a copy of Making Waves in their youth.

We did however sing along to tunes from Eurythmics, Duran Duran, Kylie, A-ha and Spandau Ballet, and more than one song from Peter Allen made its way into the set list.

The show saw His Majesty’s Theatre’s main auditorium transformed, with cabaret style tables in front of the stage, probably a first in the theatre’s 117 year history. Despite being a massive room, the staging of the show made it close and intimate.

At the end of a medley of much loved songs from the 80’s Griffiths sang a song which he described as a staple of AM radio, No One Is To Blame, noting that often people can’t remember who it was who sang the song three decades ago. Perth audiences were fully aware it was Howard Jones, but Griffiths explained when he’d performed the song in other cities people had suggested it was everyone from Paul Young to Nik Kershaw. It struck me that Howard Jones might be very forgettable because a few weeks ago my Facebook memory was about interviewing him, and it’s something I have no recollection of.

A highlight of the night was a magical rendition of Stand By Me.  After getting the audience to sing the backing vocals, Griffiths delivered a beautiful acapella version of the song, while an explanation of how to write a perfect pop song, using Madonna’s Express Yourself record as an example, was clever and engrossing.

The show is the perfect way to cap off Michael Griffith’s milestone, and I’m intrigued to see what he’ll do next. Now he’s developed a loyal audience maybe he’ll take us on some journeys into more obscure territories.

The Perth International Cabaret Festival continues throughout the week, including Michael Griffith’s Late Night Variety Show, plus shows from Dean Misdale, Steven Oliver, Carlotta, John O’Hara and the amazing Meow Meow.   

Graeme Watson

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