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Review/Cabaret

Like a pro

4 November 2019

Review: Downstairs at the Maj, ‘Michael Griffiths: By Request’ ⋅
Downstairs at the Maj, October 19 ⋅
Review by Erin Hutchinson ⋅

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Like a pro

Helpmann Award winner Michael Griffiths is a regular on the Australian cabaret scene, and there’s no wonder why. From his self-aggrandising introduction (with tongue firmly in cheek) to the catchy closing number, ‘Michael Griffiths: By Request whirls its audience along on a fun-filled journey of stories and singalongs.

Griffiths’ years of onstage experience shows. His storytelling is witty and engaging as he casually shares tales from his time spent living in Perth while attending the WA Academy of Performing Arts, and walks us through his love of music from his youth.

A king of the tribute show, Griffiths’ song list features favourites from ABBA, Elton, Kylie, and Madonna. However, this show has a twist… aside from a few clear personal favourites, the songs were chosen by the audience, giving the evening a joyous sense of spontaneity. This structure clearly works well for his fans – as one member of the audience cried out, “I want to hear everything [you’ve done] since you were ten!”

He also namedrops like a pro, feeding the crowd delicious tidbits from his time in major productions such as We Will Rock You and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, and the various celebrities he encountered along the way.

sitting at a piano, a man sings into a microphone
Michael Griffiths’ voice is a smooth and supple beast. Photo Alison Rodrigues.

The adoration of the audience is understandable. Griffiths’ voice is a smooth and supple beast, from the opening number Copacabana, to his rousing closing version of John Paul Young’s Aussie classic Love is in the Air.

He introduces the audience participation early and leads the singalongs with ease, through harmonies and echoes. The real highlight of the night, however, was an Annie Lennox ballad that allowed his voice to truly shine alone.

His arrangements were supported by Greg Brenton on drums and Karl Florisson on bass, both consummate performers, and the three worked wonderfully together. It would be great to see them in a more intimate venue like the Ellington, where Griffiths’ conversational style would work without the issues of the disrupted sightlines of Downstairs at The Maj.

‘By Request’ has already toured nationally and internationally, and will return to Perth for Fringe World 2020. If you’re a tragic fan of 70’s and 80’s pop music, this is the show for you. Be warned, though, with Griffiths’ local loyal following, this is bound to sell out so I’d be booking early. And if you’re not keen, send your mum. She’ll love it.

Michael Griffiths: By Request returns for Fringe World in January.

Pictured Top: Michael Griffiths takes audiences on a fun-filled journey of stories and singalongs. Photo Alison Rodrigues.

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Author —
Erin Hutchinson

Erin Hutchinson is an actor, singer, theatre maker and teacher who is passionate about local arts. Whilst she wishes she could still be a ninja on the monkey bars, she’s content to enjoy a turn on the swings… easier to still hold a glass of wine.

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