Alan Cumming: I Bought A Blue Car Today
He was in Sam Mendes' highly acclaimed production of Cabaret and yet still one doesn't automatically associate Alan Cumming with the musical world. He's an actor (an incredibly fine one) and a comic, but a singer?
Well, you can decide that for yourself as his one man show I Bought A Blue Car Today takes the audience on a journey through his last ten years in New York and is punctuated by musical numbers which relate to his experiences or have had an impact on him during his time in America, or that he just plain likes and doesn't really have any other reason for singing them.
So the big question is, can he really sing? It certainly wasn't what I was expecting. Sure Cumming can carry a tune and it's no surprise to see several comic songs pop up such as Victoria Wood's 'Thinking of You' and 'Taylor the Latte Boy' by Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler. However they are weaved in alongside power ballads like Cyndi Lauper's 'Shine' and Cole Porter's 'Every Time We Say Goodbye' and even a few self-penned numbers. Performing these songs with an almost desperate sincerity, Cumming is clearly anxious about performing these songs well and you can't help but feel a little nervous for him. He lacks the effortless ability of a natural singer and at times falls a little flat through his eagerness to communicate the song.
His witty repartee about his experiences in America, although a little self-indulgent, are quite the contrary. Despite the nerves he discusses, his banter is easy and casual as if talking with old friends. As Cumming says; this is like a party; it's just that we had to pay to come!
His tales of his life Stateside, mixing with the stars and performing at the Tonys, are fabulous and yet they are extremely personal as he discloses that he was sobbing in the shower just before meeting Whoopi Goldberg backstage at Cabaret. His stories, although at times a little boastful, are endearing and he's really just a Scottish lad, excited by his life Stateside. Although it is interesting that he has become a citizen in a country which he had to leave in order to get married as they don't recognise same-sex marriages. He talks a great deal about his partner and friends and at times gets quite sentimental, although there is always a mischievous grin and a naughty twinkle in his eyes.
Whether he is the greatest singer in the world is almost neither here nor there. His sensual, dirty version of 'Mein Herr' from Cabaret proves that you don't have to have the strongest belt for a song to make an impact and, whilst this isn't the case for every song, it really doesn't matter all that much. It's Alan Cumming and even a story about buying a blue car today is entertaining when he's telling it.
Playing until 6th September
Reviewer: Rachel Sheridan