To quote Cole Porter, it was indeed a “de-lightful, de-licious and de-lovely” evening in the company of polished performer Michael Griffiths. The sold out show was a treat with Griffiths assuming the persona of Porter as the disarmingly charming showman and indulged party animal of the period.
Christening his disabled legs Geraldine and Josephine he introduced the audience to them and praised us for our lovely manners in responding to their “good evening” greetings. It was that kind of tongue-in-cheek humour which endeared Griffiths to the audience as much as his versatile patter, talented piano work and clever vocal arrangements of the familiar lyrics that Porter penned and unusually, for which he also composed the music.
Griffiths’ programme reflected the diversity of Porter’s work from the jaunty syncopated “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love” and “Anything Goes” to the truly romantic, voluptuous “Under my Skin”.
The homosexuality, so unspoken of in the 1920s, was masked by a mutually devoted partnership with his wife Linda, also an heir to a considerable fortune. Together they lived an indulgent, hedonistic life between America and Europe. Their parties were legendary extravaganzas.
Porter’s popular stage and later film success were up and down but income was of little consequence to him. He was ever the consummate elegant gentleman and host. His sexual peccadilloes were supposedly mollified to wife Linda, by the song “I’m Always True to You, Darling in my Fashion.”
Griffiths brought Porter to life with a showcase of witty numbers which were smart, sharply crafted reflections of the milieu in which he moved. Griffiths’ carefully casual insouciance was beautifully managed. Yet the deeply romantic songs linger for their sophistry and for the sharp, hard-gained knowledge of life, separation, love and loss, “Night and Day” being a perfect example.
Moving out of character in the final part of the performance Griffiths paid tribute to the writer of the show, Anna Goldsworthy, WAAPA (of which he is a graduate) and the technical team at the gorgeous venue that is the Downstairs at the Maj cabaret room.
After some joyful and enthusiastic chorus response to the refrain of “Another, Opening, Another Show,” Griffiths followed the golden rule of leaving the audience with a memorable, but low-key rendition to calm down the finale. This was “Every Time we Say Goodbye”, wonderfully delivered, to rapturous applause.
These shows are usually 60 minutes but Griffith’s extended the time to 90 minutes. Not a moment to spare. Deeply enjoyable.
Perth Theatre Trust presents
by Anna Goldsworthy
Venue: Downstairs at The Maj, 825 Hay Street Perth WA
Dates: 28 September – 1 October 2016
Bookings: ticketek.com.au/downstairsatthemaj | 1300 795 012