Australian actor, musician and singer, Michael Griffiths is certainly a versatile entertainer. Previously he has celebrated the music of Annie Lennox and Madonna, but now he is delighted he can remain true to his gender and sexuality in this show.
In the Piccolo Tent in the Gardens, the stage is set with just a keyboard, chair, table with a glass and Whisky decanter. Nattily dressed in a checked shirt, bow tie and flower on the lapel of his jacket, his sleek black hair is neatly trimmed 1930s style, which creates an uncanny facial resemblance to Cole Porter. Griffiths totally embraces Porter’s flamboyant persona from the moment he walks on stage, limping slowly to the piano with the aid of a walking stick.
A toe tapping refrain from “Anything Goes”, is the start of a rapturous repertoire of those familiar songs and show tunes, interspersed with witty snippets about the composer’s glamorous life. Writing songs from the age of just ten, he soon learnt the first rule as a lyricist: "Words and music must be so inseparably wedded to each other that they are like one."
Here are all those catchy rhymes, the pop song poetry of his era, complemented by melodic music like a graceful waltz:
“The night is young, the skies are clear, So if you want to go walking, dear,
It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely.”
The lyrics are expressed with such clarity in Michael’s mellifluously smooth tone of voice, which accentuates Porter’s clipped, camp, upper-class American accent with a slight nuance of Noel Coward. Cole is infectiously charming. We hear stories of his marriage to the beautiful Linda, a wealthy widow, living in Paris where “ life was de-lovely … we were not just rich, but rich-rich” – a social whirl of decadent parties and extra-marital love affairs with gay abandon: Let’s Misbehave is not so much a song title but his motto.
One such lover was Boris Kochno, a Russian poet and dancer with Ballet Russe. It would seem that it was this passionate relationship which inspired the finest of Porter’s lyrics:
“I love Paris every moment, Every moment of the year. I love Paris, why, oh why do I love Paris? Because my love is near.”
The highlight of the show for me was a perfect, slow paced performance of "I've Got You Under My Skin." The words reflect “the love that dare not speak its name”, imbued with such heartfelt truth. I have never heard this sung with such emotion and dramatic sincerity.
“I'd sacrifice anything come what might for the sake of having you near,
In spite of a warning voice that comes in the night and repeats, repeats in my ear;
Don't you know little fool, You never can win..”
‘Cole’ won the Adelaide Fringe Weekly Best Cabaret Award 2016 and given this is the genre, the ideal venue would be a Piano Bar, while the Piccolo unfortunately has formal, raked theatre seats. But as 6pm is Cocktail hour, you are positively encouraged by Cole to bring in a drink from one of the Garden bars, and come to his Cabaret.
Unlike a typical tribute act, this is a dramatised performance by Michael Griffiths in character as Cole Porter, to epitomise the man and his music; like a coupe of champagne, the show fizzes with lighthearted humour and timeless romance.
04 – 29 August, 2016. No show 16 August.
Ticket prices: 6-9, 12-14, 19-21, 26-28 August £12;
10-11, 15, 17-18, 22-25 August, £10