Reviewed: 7 June 2015
An aim of many song-writers is to be remembered. An incalculable number have penned classic tunes lasting decades while an equal number have slipped into obscurity. There is no magic ingredient for writing enduring musical standards although the ability for others to re-interpret those songs is a plus. Cole Porter was one such composer/songwriter whose work still captivates. Famed for writing dozens of musicals and hit songs such as Anything Goes, Night and Day and You’re the Top, there isn’t anyone somewhere who hasn’t heard one of his tracks.
Someone eager to express their admiration for the Porter songbook is Michael Griffiths. Known for his shows which have re-interpreted the songs of Madonna and Annie Lennox, he turns his gaze in Porter’s direction. Performing as part of this year’s Cabaret Festival in the auspicious surrounds of the Banquet Room, his vocal range is well suited to Porter’s beguiling writing style. Walking onto stage as the great wordsmith, Griffiths immediately inhabits Porter’s captivating persona. Unapologetic in his musical tastes or life, Griffiths and his subject soon become one. In collaboration with fellow Adelaide writer and pianist Anna Goldsworthy, Griffiths mines much from Porter’s life.
Conveying the personal high and lows of his life, like many of us, Porter had his demons. Griffiths tells his story in such a breezy way it’s easy becoming swept into this world. Infused with many classic tunes, the hour plus show successfully encapsulates the genius of his lyrics. Revealing as much as he could of his life in song, Porter used all facets of his personality. From his sexuality, personal beliefs and long marriage, nothing was off-limits. This is perhaps why his music still appeals as its honesty still prevails. Writing songs which are about something allows for more longevity which is something clearly seen in Porter’s words. Griffiths’ singing style enables the lyrics’ myriad of emotions to effectively surface making for more powerful listening. Coupled with his excellent audience interaction, he made Cole a fun and engrossing set-piece.
Aided by some sublime lighting, each tune Griffith sang came to life. The stories of Porter’s life between songs were at times sad but via Griffiths, Porter was a person refusing to succumb to maudlin behaviour. Embracing his world through song, these qualities were well articulated by Griffith’s presence and excellent piano skills. His elegantly charming wit shone through as brightly as Porter’s timeless songs. From the rapturous applause of the audience, Griffith succeeded in connecting with them and bringing them along for a timeless musical journey.
There have been many tributes to Cole Porter’s life, but Cole must rank as one of the best. An intimate but entertaining excursion into the life of an important song-writer, fans of Porter’s work would do well to see this remarkable and stylish tribute.
Reviewed by: Patrick Moore
Rating out of 5: 5
Venue: Banquet Room
Season: 7 – 8 June 2015
Duration: 1hr, 10 mins.
Tickets: Premium $44.90: Adult $39.90, Concession $34.90
Bookings: Book online through www.adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au or phone BASS on 131 246