“I was 10 and she was wearing a suit, so of course I thought she was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen.” That early infatuation has lingered well into Michael Griffiths’ adulthood, and he’s turned it into a stripped-back, one-man cabaret that explores the stories that Annie Lennox reveals through her lyrics and music.
“What’s lovely about that is that it just becomes about lyrics and melody. You’re not listening to backing vocals, or watching video clips, or listening to the drum machine. You’ve just got her lyrics and the beautiful melodies that she either wrote herself or with Dave Stewart. Her lyrics are such beautiful poetry,” Griffiths explains.
Griffiths is performing mostly Eurythmics songs and songs from Lennox’s first solo album, Diva. “Even though the show is about her story and her point of view, I did sort of hesitate using as many Eurythmics songs as I do and still call it her story; but then when I did my research, the lyrics are basically all her lyrics. They are all her stories.” He stresses, in his deep spoken baritone, that he’s not a vocal impersonator, so he’s rearranged her music for just vocals and piano.
Griffiths says that Lennox’s songs fit the cabaret setting because “the stories are so full of pain and suffering. They’re gutsy and there’s a sort of darkness; there’s a through-line of turning darkness into light. There’s a lot of jealousy and betrayal. Pain and heartbreak. There are things that anyone who has been in love and had their heart broken, which is anyone sort of post-puberty, can relate to those feelings.”
He brought the show, which he affectionately refers to as Annie, to the Cabaret Soiree 2014 season downstairs at the Maj, which, much to his excitement, sold out about a week prior to the show’s opening. But before there was Annie there was Madonna, (AKA: In Vogue: Songs By Madonna), his first foray into cabaret, which saw a stint at Fringe World 2014. But Griffiths needs variety, so he’s written an even newer, but more personal show called Adolescent just in time for turning 40. He decided not to bring that one to Fringe just yet — he’s saving it for next year.
As for any future pop diva cabarets, he says he and his writer, Dean Bryant, have been planning to do a Kylie, but that might be on hold for a bit, since Bryant, director of Sweet Charity at Sydney’s Hayes Theatre Co. has just won a ‘Best Direction Of A Musical’ Helpmann Award and happens to be one of the most in-demand directors at the moment. But in the meantime, he’ll be juggling the three shows under his belt, taking them far and wide to various cabaret-friendly festivals and events.
“I like juggling the shows because it keeps it very fresh for me and I don’t get bored. So it’s actually a thrill to do Adolescent here in Melbourne, Annie in Perth, and then Madonna in New Zealand later this year. That keeps me really excited.”
Sweet Dreams: Songs By Annie Lennox is on at De Parel Spiegeltent in the Perth Cultural Centre from Tuesday, February 3, until Saturday, February 7, as part of Fringe World. For tickets and session times, go to fringeworld.com.au.