Cole (Michael Griffiths)
Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre
When Queensland Cabaret Festival regular Michael Griffiths hobbles onto the stage as American composer and songwriter Cole Porter, he is impeccably mannered, sharing anecdotes with a proper pronunciation befitting Porter’s persona. He looks the part too, sitting behind the baby grand piano with whiskey decanter at-hand as he takes audiences on a journey through Porter’s famed music, inset with tales from his life.
Although still an in-character confessional cabaret of the sort that has seen him shine in previous festivals, this is far from his days of Madonna and Annie Lennox. The premise is simple yet effective and Porter’s colourful life provides much substance from which to draw, both musically and in narration. And so audiences are told of the tragedy behind his disability following serious horseback riding accident alongside share of his songwriting process working backwards from the refrain and the tale of his travels from ‘I Love Paris’ to ‘I happen to like New York’.
Given Porter’s repertoire of musicals and hit songs, audiences are sure to know the numbers, from the upbeat opening of ‘Anything Goes’ to the wit of ‘Let’s Misbehave’ and the cheek of ‘Let’s Do It’ with its string of suggestive comparisons and examples. Indeed, it is difficult to listen without smile spreading across your face. And there is even an audience sing-a-long to show business anthem Another Op’nin’, Another Show”, the opening number to “Kiss Me Kate”, which is fabulous fun in its gay abandon.
Griffiths is effortlessly charming and, as always, able in performance both vocally and on the piano. Indeed, the range of his versatile vocals sounds are perfectly showcased in the honest emotion of the melodic “I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ and the heights of the bluesy parody ‘Miss Otis’ as much as the comic combination of rhymes in ‘You’re the Top’. And when he smoothly soars audiences to the heights of ‘Night and Day’ it is a magical moment that melts away anything other than its depth and soulful sound.
Even when touching on the demons of Porter’s privileged life, “Cole” stays classy, thanks to the clever writing of its co-creator Anna Goldsworthy. Its affection for the genius and his greatest hits is delightfully irresistible. And just as French champagne may be good for the brain, this intimate swellengent session with Cole, is such to make your musical soul whole.