Kate Herbert reviews In Vogue: Songs By Madonna for the Herald Sun. See the review in its original context here.
WHO CAN EXPLAIN why pop divas such as Madonna, Bette Midler and Kylie are gay icons – they just are.
Singer-pianist, Michael Griffiths, directed by Dean Bryant, performs Madonna’s hit songs, speaking in first person as Madonna but without any drag-queen costuming, accent or attempted impersonation of that feisty, Italo-American pop idol.
Griffith’s performance is super-camp and his delivery of Bryant’s witty dialogue is sardonic and intimate as he weaves Madonna’s songs among stories of her personal and public life.
Seated at a piano, he chats personably with us, underscoring tales of Madonna’s success, loves, ambition and ageing with moody music and cheesy lyrics read from Madonna’s diary.
Griffiths voice is warm, his piano playing effortless and his interpretations of Madonna’s songs often have blues and jazz tones that make them more affecting and personal.
His impassioned version of Papa Don’t Preach takes on new meaning when sung about her failed marriage to Sean Penn, and his reworking of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina highlights her unsuccessful movie career and hapless quest to win an Oscar.
Madonna’s critics may say she sounds like Minnie Mouse on helium, but songs such as Dress You Up In My Love, Borderline, I’m Crazy For You and Like a Virgin are unforgettable, pop hits.
Bryant’s script includes hilariously acerbic references to Madonna’s competition with Lady Gaga who has assumed Madonna’s mantle of primary, pop diva.
He interweaves mischievous snippets about her parade of lovers, her natural children and adopted, African babies, and her sanctimonious and bossy behaviour.
Griffiths’ charming and impish performance sheds new light on Madonna’s songs and career, placing her firmly in the category of gay icon/pop idol.