In Vogue: Songs by Madonna

 From the moment he steps on stage, Michael Griffiths is The Queen of Pop.

 Presented by Slide, written and directed by Dean BryantSlide Bar, 41 Oxford St Darlinghurst Wednesday, 10 August 2011  (One night only) Michael GriffithsFrom the moment he steps on stage, Michael Griffiths is The Queen of Pop.  He might not be wearing a dress or wig but we know Madge herself is in the house just from her well-practiced expression of long-suffering superiority and a fur collar draped around the shoulders. Madonna is in the house, and the crowd at Darlinghurst’s Slide Bar – a well-known venue for slick Sydney cabaret – reacted accordingly.  Charmingly self-assured and conversational, Griffiths (currently appearing in blockbuster musical Jersey Boys) held the audience in the palm of his hand from his first piano-powered Madge arrangement – a new approach to ‘Vogue’. He is comfortable in this character, which is perhaps owing to its successful sellout debut at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Seated at the piano and armed with “excerpts” from her diary, Madonna starts to tell us the story of her life and career, shaping the act into a journey of songwriting, of her family, of the music industry, of how no one buys CDs anymore – a shame, Madonna laments, because then we are missing out on airbrushed pictures of her looking “fierce” in the liner notes. On the topic of illegal music downloads she simply remarks that if we insist on stealing music, we should do it to Lady Gaga instead.  With smooth and rich vocals we meander through Madonna’s strong catalogue hits, deviating to share thoughts of the music business in between ‘Open Your Heart’ and ‘Borderline’, and exploring the formula to create a perfect pop anthem with ‘Express Yourself’. Justin Timberlake (the entirely charming Josie Lane) even makes an appearance to duet with the Queen of Pop in an energy-filled, delightfully over the top ‘4 Minutes’ and a vocally stunning ‘Crazy For You’.  This is a loving tribute to an icon with tongue lodged firmly in cheek. Even mistakes are handled with aplomb; when Griffiths fumbled with the lyrics his Madonna-like wit saved the moment each time, tossing into the crowd comments like “If you’re going to applaud every time I f**k up we’re going to be here all night,” (greeted with thunderous applause) and, spectacularly, during ‘Material Girl’, “You’re fans, can’t you sing along?”  With strong piano power-pop and a sparkling sense of fun (we were treated to a walk-through Madonna’s photo album – her Sex book – with candour and sly commentary), Griffiths is Madonna, even through the encore (‘Like a Prayer’). What, she says witheringly, did we think she wasn’t going to play that song?  The best tributes are ones that are unafraid to add a wink and a smile to their tone, and In Vogue certainly succeeds. And for those of you who might think Madonna is a bit out of an outdated figure in the world of pop music, she has some strong words for you in the show’s closing line: “Excuse me, I’m Madonna, the most famous b*tch on the planet. Shut. Up.” Photo by: Kurt Sneddon 

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and is the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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