In Vogue – Songs by Madonna will make every Material Girl and Preaching Papa feel like they’ve found their home.
From the moment audience members walk into la Casadeur, they are greeted with Madonna’s pop vocals floating over the speakers. After reacquainting themselves with Madonna’s girlie, synthesised sound, the audience gets a shock to the system when Michael Griffiths begins his show with a cover of Vogue.
With his bare bones keyboard accompaniment and a voice that is much more, well, male, than Ms Ciccone’s, it takes a moment to adjust to this alternate “Madonna”. Michael Griffiths performs as Madonna for the bulk of the one-hour show, detailing the pop star’s life from her arrival in New York in 1978 to present and providing audiences with little known facts about Madonna’s early life and relationships. Switching between sassy parody and genuine admiration, Griffiths provides a mouthpiece for both the lovers and the haters of Madonna’s controversial tunes.
Griffiths’ versions of Madonna’s hits are markedly different from the originals with slow, lyrical arrangements. Despite the fact that, in their original forms, these songs often required large bands, synthesisers or in the case of Like a Prayer, a full choir, the audience doesn’t miss the extra frills at all. For most songs, these arrangements are refreshing, simple and melodic, although some of Madonna’s more dancey numbers don’t adapt well to the ballad treatment. The formal, monologue style of the narration is immersive, flowing and, while a few witty quips fall flat, generally quite funny.
As a performer, Griffiths is confident and often very polished. He seems to struggle a little when going ‘off-script’, occasionally getting distracted and losing his place in the lengthy monologue. The monologue itself is well rehearsed and emotive, but doesn’t always roll well with the punches of live theatre, particularly in a noisy location like the Garden of Unearthly Delights.
Given the simple, one-man-and-his-keyboard style of the show and the bareness of the stage, the lighting changes can come across as a little intense – although they adapt well with the mood of the songs and the emotional tone of the show, they sometimes overshadow Griffiths and his, or Madonna’s, music.
The best element of this show is definitely Griffiths’ voice. His musical-theatre-style, rich vocals are enchanting, and the audience definitely responds to his syrupy tones and musicality. Musically, In Vogue Griffiths goes from strength to strength until his finale, which, given the unique, enchanting renditions that came before, is a little anticlimactic. Luckily Griffith’s extended encore, complete with time for requests and a second finale number, quickly remedies this.
In Vogue – Songs by Madonna is an entertaining and fascinating way to spend an hour, whether you’re a Madonna lover or just a little Madonna-curious. If you can suspend disbelief and see Griffiths as a timeless diva and pop-culture queen, you’ll be rewarded with an hour with Madonna, stripped back like you’ve never seen her before (well, unless you saw her in Body of Evidence).