Ever since I heard "Borderline" by Madonna, I was hooked on her and her music. I own all her albums, have watched all her movies, and seen many of her world tours. Madonna's music has inspired me, helped through my troubles, and been there to celebrate the good times. Madonna's self-expression has shown me it's okay to be who you are regardless of whether or not people like you for it. The ones who like you will accept it and those who don't will have to deal with it.
With-in "4 Minutes" of finding out about Michael Griffiths' show In Vogue: Songs By Madonna, I stepped into the "Spotlight" and gave him a ring. Luckily, I did not get "Hung Up" on. From one "Rebel Heart" to another, Michael & I immediately got "Into The Grove" about the creation of this show, our mutual admiration of Madonna and revealing a "Secret" about Michael he has not told anyone else! This is one Madonna "Celebration" you don't want to miss!
In Vogue: Songs By Madonna features Michael simply seated at the piano, leading the audience on a journey through Madonna's tough life and tender songs, including "Vogue," "Into The Groove" and "Express Yourself." The show will play Martinis Above Fourth in San Diego 1/26, 8pm, Catalina Bar & Grill in Los Angeles 1/29, 7:30pm, and Feinstein's/54 Below in New York 2/7, 9:30pm!
1. This February you are making your Feinstein’s/54 Below debut with your show In Vogue: Songs By Madonna. What made now the right time to bring this show to NYC? A few years back in Australia I read from afar about Feinstien’s/54 Below opening as New York’s premier cabaret venue and immediately thought "Wow, I wanna play there one day." Of course, I never actually did anything about it. Last year I was invited to perform my Cole Porter tribute around California in February and bringing "In Vogue" to New York was my very next thought! I don’t think I consciously decided it was the "right time," more that the stars have aligned and I’m terribly excited.
2. What excites you most about performing this show? The thrill of cabaret is the intimacy of sharing a common experience with an audience. I also love being alone on stage, it’s very dangerous and there’s no smoke or mirrors - you simply have to bring your A-game! The show attracts all types of people, but the long term Madonna fans are the ones who get the biggest kick out every little reference and lyric. I sing 12 songs in their entirety, but cram in references to about 35 different songs. It’s a testament to her extraordinary output and longevity.
3. As a huge Madonna fan myself, I can only imagine how hard it was to narrow down the song selection. How did you ever manage to do that? What were some of the songs you had to leave out? It was hard and there are a number of songs that I adore which have been left by the wayside: "Crazy For You," "Take A Bow," "Causing A Commotion" and "La Isla Bonita," the latter omitted mainly because I can’t properly pronounce the Spanish "r" in San Pedro. It was about choosing songs that gave a sense of her character or illustrated part of her life, balanced with songs that suited a male voice at the piano. Like Madonna herself, I’m a big fan of reinvention and it’s great fun reimagining these songs with a touch of ragtime, jazz and even some Phillip Glass minimalism for good measure.
4. Your show takes audiences on a journey through Madonna’s life and music. When was the moment you knew Madonna was it for you? What stage of her life was it and what song drew you in? I remember early at primary school all the Italian girls (who always knew what was cool before anyone else did) were dancing around to "Holiday" on a cassette recorder at recess. I thought it was a great song but wasn’t so keen on "Like A Virgin" or "Material Girl" so didn’t consider myself a Madonna fan from the very beginning. A year or so later, the gorgeous ballad "Live To Tell" came out and it was the first 7-inch single I ever bought. I loved her "old hollywood" look in the video clip too. When True Blue the album was released, the very opening strings on "Papa Don’t Preach" utterly hooked me. I’ve been a fan ever since. As a gay man who grew up in the 80s and came out in the 90s, it’s hard to imagine life without her.
5. You created a show about one of our biggest icons ever. Did you have any reservations prior to creating this show? If Madonna herself came to see the show, what would she think of it? I wanted the show to represent her impact on my life, my pop sensibility learnt from her and for it to be joyous. There’s an unbridled joy in pop music, joy in the Hollywood rap in "Vogue," joy in the self empowerment of "Express Yourself," in singing along to "Ray Of Light." Of course, a 42-year-old gay guy claiming he IS Madonna (I do the show without drag or impersonation) does inherently have some humour and I worry she might not appreciate some of the bitchy quips. Or the references to some of her movie choices. It all comes from a place of love and admiration though :)
6. If you could star in five of Madonna's music videos, which ones would you want to be in? If you could have been a dancer in one of her world tours, which one would you have liked to be a part of? I’m obsessed with the video to "Human Nature," it’s INCREDIBLE! That would be my all time fave, maybe I’d star as the little dog? Then one of the sexy cowboys in "Don’t Tell Me." Driving around with her in a limo in "Music" looks like fun. Lying around in a 5-star hotel room in "Justify My Love" adds just a touch of controversy and I’d have to finish off with an appearance voguing in "Vogue." As for being a dancer, I was a big fan of the "Sticky and Sweet" tour and joined in at home with the jumping "Give It To Me" finale. So fun!
- Where's your favorite place to take a "Holiday" (from Madonna)? I love a tropical holiday, anywhere the ocean is warm. "La Isla Bonita" perhaps?
- When have you felt like a "Material Girl" (from Like A Virgin)? Hmmm, when I buy expensive skincare?
- When your dad would try to teach you something, did you ever say or think "Papa Don't Preach" (from True Blue)? I would burst into song, "BUT I’VE MADE UP MY MIND, IIIIIIIII'M KEEPING MY BABY!" Actually, that would be weird.
- If you weren't a singer, how would you "Express Yourself" (from Like A Prayer)? Maybe I’d be a writer? Even as a singer, I think what’s appealing to me is telling stories.
- What is something you hope happens for you "Sooner or Later" (from her album I'm Breathless)? I hope I get to keep doing what I’m doing now.
- What is something the "Rain" (from Erotica) has washed away for you? I feel like "Rain" might be a metaphor for healing. I think as we all grow up, there’s a gap in what we thought life would be like and what it actually is. This causes pain which triggers growth and healing. I’m suddenly getting very deep....
- When have you been enlightened by a "Ray of Light" (from Ray of Light)? I’m still waiting....
- What is one "Secret" (from Bedtime Story) you would like to reveal that you haven't told in a previous interview? I’m a big softie and beautiful music makes me cry.
- On Music, Madonna sings "Nobody's Perfect," what is one of your imperfections? I can be bombastic and easily carried away.
- Inspired by "I'm So Stupid" (from American Life), what do you feel is the stupidest thing you've ever done? Deciding to leave my partner of 20 years for a young admirer. The youngster disappeared, my partner forgave me and it all worked out in the end. I was in idiot though.
- When has there been a time in your life when you were ready to "Jump" (from Confessions on the Dance Floor) and you did? After many years working in musical theatre I decided to jump ship and try my luck doing cabaret. Three years later and I’m about to tour the States. "Don’t ever look back oh baby."
- What is the most "Incredible" (from Candy Shop) thing to happen to you? I won a Helpmann Award (an Australian equivalent to a Tony) which proclaims me to be the "Best Cabaret Performer" in Australia last year. That was pretty amazing.
- Aside from Madonna, who else do you "Turn Up The Radio" (from MDNA) for? Anything I can dance to, especially when no one is looking.
- On Madonna's album Rebel Heart, she sings "Heartbreak City." What has been your biggest heartbreak? Finding out as an adult I was "donor conceived" and I didn't know who my biological father was. That was heartbreaking.
8. Now, let's turn to her movies. If you had a face to face meeting with her characters from Who's That Girl, Dick Tracy, A League of Their Own, Body of Evidence, and Madonna herself from Truth or Dare, what advice would you give to each of them? I’ve not watched any of those movies for sooo long! I actually have a massive soft spot for Swept Away although she is such massive bitch in it that I’d be terrified to give her any advice whatsoever.
9. If you could release a duets album with Madonna, featuring 10 of her songs, which ones would you want to record with her? I feel like going down the "Tears Of A Clown" path and doing lesser known songs:
- "Get Together"
- "Inside of Me"
- "Dress You Up"
- "Nothing Fails"
- "Live To Tell"
- "Phyiscal Attraction"
- "Bedtime Story"
- "Justify My Love"
- "Beautiful Stranger"
10. If you had the opportunity to interview Madonna, what is one question you would ask her? Have you forgiven your brother for that book?
Michael Griffiths graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) with a Bachelor in Music Theatre in 1999 and has a diploma in Music Composition. He is a singer, pianist, actor, composer and musical arranger. Michael was nominated for a Green Room Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as "Bob Crewe" in Jersey Boys. He has also appeared in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, We Will Rock You!, Shout! and was in the original workshop for the Australian musical Prodigal. His acclaimed one man cabaret shows In Vogue: Songs By Madonna, Sweet Dreams: Songs By Annie Lennox, Adolescent and Cole have delighted critics and audiences across every cabaret festival in Australia and beyond to New York, Auckland, Edinburgh, Hong Kong and London.