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Compelling homage to a class act

See article in its original context here by Cameron Woodhead for The Age.

Musical theatre whiz Dean Bryant has created a string of successful cabaret shows based on the lives of famous pop stars.

In Sweet Dreams, it’s Annie Lennox who gets the treatment. Unlike Bryant’s previous subjects Britney Spears and Madonna, Lennox has obvious soul and the songs – from her time as half of the synthpop duo the Eurythmics to her solo work from the early ’90s – are of equally evident genius.

That frees collaborator Michael Griffiths to channel the Scottish songstress in a relaxed and charismatic act of manifestation, and Bryant to weld the music to biographical material without striving for satire.

It’s an affectionate homage that embodies Lennox’s androgyny and reserve, her modesty and the direct expression of emotion through her music without resorting to cliche.

Griffiths is extraordinary. Songs are unbound from their studio sound with terrific instrumental and vocal dexterity. He can rise to the challenge of tracks from the lush solo album Diva – including Little Bird, Walking on Broken Glass or Why? – in all their moody fascination, and when he comes to the one impossible feat, he gets the audience (by that point eating out of the palm of his hand) to sing backing vocals to Thorn in My Side.

When he is not singing, Griffiths channels the indomitable spirit and self-deprecating intelligence of his subject to perfection. The one repeated gag at Lennox’s expense – she lights a candle and blows it out, ridding the air of the ghost of musical ideas gone awry – genuinely amuses.

Sweet Dreams is a compelling blend of tranquillity, turbulence and gentleness that comes from being able to express pain creatively.



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