Michael Griffiths has carved out a distinctive cabaret niche as a kind of deadpan musical ventriloquist, presenting solo shows in which he sits at the keyboard and embodies a given songwriter, delivering elegant arrangements of their hits interspersed with biographical anecdotes.
Star rating: ****
Venue: Assembly George Square Gardens (Venue 3)
It’s all done in the first person but there’s no attempt at imitation – when Griffiths played Madonna and Annie Lennox (in 2014 and 2015 respectively) there was barely an attempt to conceal his Australian accent, let alone drag up. The effect, though a touch uncanny, is intimate, amusing, even touching.
This year, Griffiths is channelling Cole Porter and the result is altogether less bizarre, partly because the two share a gender, partly because few of us have much of a sense of Porter’s public persona against which to measure Griffiths’s portrayal.
The biographical aspect of the show is also less immediately gripping because, one terrible accident aside, Porter led a pretty charmed life: he inherited a fortune, was professionally feted and had both a long marriage and a series of same-sex affairs.
Such qualifications aren’t really problems, though: on its own terms, this is an utterly charming show. It helps, of course, that the repertoire is an embarrassment of riches: Anything Goes, Night and Day, You’re the Top, Love for Sale, I Happen to Like New York… Griffiths’s arrangements are clever and spry, with judiciously distilled information about Porter’s life organically interpellated between verses. The lyrics receive a telling or satirical update as well.
If there are moments when Griffiths seems to be reaching for his next line, that’s not out of step with the nonchalance so characteristic of much of Porter’s life. Overall, it’s a fittingly debonair tribute to an artist of grace and style.
Until 29 August. Today 6pm.