Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs, Edinburgh

Lorna Stallard September 4, 2016 0
Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs began life in the fashionable Café Carlyle in New York’s Upper East Side in June 2015 before touring the US, Canada and Australia, but this is the first time the elfin Scottish actor has brought the show to Edinburgh in his native Scotland. Having recently retired the role of the Emcee in Cabaret on Broadway – one of his most notable performances – Cumming brings a touch of decadence to The Hub on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile for a sold out month-long stint at the Fringe. A neon sign emblazoned with Club Cumming takes centre stage, referring to Cumming’s notorious after-show parties in his Broadway dressing room. It turns out to be both a raucous and emotional evening of music and story-telling.

 The show begins with a rousing rendition of Annie Lennox’s Why, before launching into Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know. Cumming introduces his band and explains that each song performed tonight has been chosen for his personal connection to it. He also explains that some unlikely selections, such as Miley Cyrus’ The Climb and Avril Lavigne’s Complicated, are former guilty pleasures that have turned into personal anthems of empowerment and self-realisation.

Despite being known primarily for his acting, including his Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated role as Eli Gold on legal drama The Good Wife, Cumming possesses a surprisingly powerful voice, with his Scottish burr present throughout. It is perfect for delivering Michael Marra’s Mother Glasgow, a moving ode to a city Cumming lived in for several years while at drama school. He even sings Complainte De La Butte entirely in French, a song about the bohemian Montmartre area of Paris previously recorded by Cumming’s friend Rufus Wainwright.

Earlier in the evening, Cumming describes his experience filming the BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are?, when he learned the truth of his war veteran grandfather’s violent death, and sings Goodnight Saigon in tribute to him. Cumming sings another of Wainwright’s songs, Dinner at Eight, during one of the most emotional moments of the evening; the same summer Cumming learned the truth about his grandfather’s death, his estranged father told him he wasn’t his son. Cumming documents this experience, including his abusive childhood at the hands of his father, in his critically acclaimed 2014 memoir Not My Father’s Son. By the end of the sombre piano ballad Dinner at Eight, which is about Wainwright’s own difficult relationship with his father, there are tears in Cumming’s eyes.

However, the show is not entirely melancholy in tone: Cumming tells some of the hilarious stories for which he is renowned, such as the time he had an ex-lover’s name tattooed on his groin, as well as a story about partying with showbiz legend Liza Minnelli. Cumming ends the evening with If Love Were All, recorded by Minnelli’s mother, Judy Garland, and a playful rendition of Ladies Who Lunch, from the Broadway musical Company.

During the show, Cumming explains that when he sings songs, he inhabits different characters. Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs confirms Cumming as one of Scotland’s greatest performers, and that he is at his most effective, moving and hilarious when he is himself.

 

 

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