Freelancer and aspiring journalist from Adelaide. Visual Arts graduate & current journalism student. Fashion, lifestyle, entertainment, art & food. I also write for The Adelaidian // theadelaidian.net/author/georgina-tselekidis
Perhaps the best cabaret performance Adelaide has seen
An evening filled with old-world charm, Porter and Piaf take the stage at Adelaide Festival Centre in their inventive retelling of two of music's greatest icons Cole Porter and French cabaret singer Edith Piaf.
Michael Griffiths as Porter captivates the audience from the very instant he appears on stage, immersed in his role fueled by wit, charm, and irresistible humour. Cole Porter was a gifted composer and lyricist who wrote many famous songs for Broadway shows such as Night and Day, I've Got You Under My Skin, Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love), and Anything Goes. As he limps onto the stage with his walking stick in hand, dressed in dapper 1930s attire, Griffiths draws us in and takes us down memory lane, unfolding Cole Porter's riveting history. A story told strongly through song and dialogue spoken directly to the audience, we're painted a vivid picture depicting Porter's luxurious world filled with social outings, fabulous pool parties, promiscuous encounters, love, and heartbreak. Having inherited millions of dollars from his grandfather and then marrying a millionairess, Porter lived a very comfortable life, which Griffiths conveys throughout his adaptation whilst sipping on some whisky in between song and entertaining us with his flamboyant accent and stylised mannerisms.
Born and bred in Adelaide, Michael Griffiths does our state proud, portraying such a renowned music icon in an honourable yet personalised way. It is obvious that Griffiths shares a connection with Porter's melodic tunes that have the ability to instantly put a smile on your face. From the upbeat rhythm of piano, witty lyrics, and customised song additions about SA's infamous Vegemite and frog cakes, Griffiths recreates a bygone era for a short while that enchants us til the very end. Likewise, Griffiths connects with his audience in a humble and exciting way by breaking the fourth wall and encouraging the audience to sing along, adding a fun element to the evening despite the mix of ages in the theatre space.
As the first half of the show came to a close, the audience was introduced to the second instalment featuring Micheala Burger in Exposing Edith; a homage to the late French cabaret icon Edith Piaf. Opening with soft sounds of acoustic guitar by Greg Wain, we found ourselves already engrossed, as Burger makes her way onto the stage from the ground level dressed as Piaf, reenacting her busking days on the streets of Paris. Burger goes back and forth to the past and present moment, retelling stories about Edith's life, whilst getting into character and portraying Edith in between. Burger's ability to transition this way conveys an incredible stage presence that honestly had the entire crowd immersed from the beginning until long after Burger completed her set.
Burger reveals her first song, taking aback the audience who sit in awe. As she retells Edith's beginnings as a young woman growing up in a brothel, her adoration of new lovers and alterations with songwriters, a little humour is thrown into the mix, but is turned around as she exposes Edith's pain and tragic life events that happened behind the scenes. Through each life event that we are exposed to, Burger sings another classic Piaf song, connecting the moments that take us along Edith's life journey in a short time-frame. Burger manages to create a stir of emotions, particularly when she sings one of Piaf's most renowned songs La Vie en Rose, filling the room with whispers as we become mesmerised by the outstanding sight and sounds before us.
The connections between Edith Piaf and Micheala Burger are uncanny. Burger is only 4 feet and 11 inches and Piaf was 4 feet 8 inches, combined with their physical attributes like brown hair, eyes and even facial similarities, Burger's role as Edith grows even more beguiling. Whilst Burger reenacts Edith's life events from aiding prisoners of war to escape concentration camps, losing her child at a young age as well as her one true love Marcel Cerdan, and her addiction to morphine and alcohol, we are really confronted with the tragic scenarios that Edith endured. However, throughout the performance we are reminded of Edith's strong will that saw her rise above the many challenges that life threw her way. These moments undoubtedly evoke an emotive connection from the audience, who can in some way relate to life's unfair circumstances, grasping at the heart strings as Burger moves us with her in-depth characterization filled with both a light and dramatic quality simultaneously. As Je Ne Regrette Rien begins, the crowd grows wild - perhaps the lyrics that play on the idea of living life with no regrets, something we familiarly feel. Closing with the song Autumn Leaves, the audience is totally absorbed by Burger's strong and powerful vocals that also possess a delicate beauty that encompasses the French songs. Although they are mostly about heartbreak, pain and love, each infamous piece is soft and sentimental, coming straight from the heart. This could not have been achieved though without Burger's amazing sidekick Greg Wain who equally deserves credit for his ability to sway the audience with his smooth as silk guitar playing, filling our hearts and minds with vivid colour and emotions as both performers take us on a memorable and hypnotizing journey.
Together, Burger and Griffiths provide a faultless performance that is thought about and talked about long after exiting the theatre. With not one dull moment, these two South Australian performers embody what cabaret should be in their riveting yet intimate tributes to two of the most influential musicians from the bygone era. Cole Porter and Edith Piaf would be damn proud.