Alan Cumming

July 25, 2010 | By | Add a Comment

Feinstein’s at Loews Regency – Apr 27 – May 1, June 22 – 26

Toward the end of his show, Alan Cumming performs a song that one might be surprised to find in his repertoire: Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich’s New York-cabaret standard “Taylor, the Latte Boy.” This number is perhaps the most persuasive—and certainly the most appealing—illustration not only of Cumming’s uniqueness, but also of his extraordinary interpretive talent. We all know how charming and funny the piece is, but we could be excused for thinking, “Yes, it’s marvelous, but do I need to hear it yet again?” But then Cumming approaches the song gently, sweetly, and oh-so-winningly, and his rendition is funny, adorable, and ultimately touching. Damned if he didn’t have me shedding happy tears. At “Taylor, the Latte Boy”! Who would have thought the old song to have had so much blood in it?

With a pairing of “I Still Have That Other Girl” (Burt Bacharach, Elvis Costello) and Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind,” Cumming gives a portrayal of mounting mental turmoil, and he tears into another two-song medley, Stephen Trask’s “Wig in a Box” and “Wicked Little Town,” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. His performance of Kander & Ebb’s “Mein Herr” is riveting, the dramatic impact undermined briefly, but not fatally, by one or two ill-conceived excesses, such as the shtick that accompanies the lyric “inch by inch,” a joke aimed at the audience rather than a choice true to the central character in the song.

Then again, nearly everything about Cumming and the evening is striking—as though he were powered by an inexhaustible source of inner energy and an exciting, convention-be-hanged view of life. The force of his presence and his strength as a performer prevail, even with material that has merit but stops short of wonderfulness. For example, with musical director Lance Horne’s “America”: although it sometimes strikes its target, more often than not the piece is glibly cynical, the product of a promising youth that needs time to mature; however, Cumming’s performance is a bravura crowd-pleaser. Only with William Finn’s “What More Can I Say?” does Cumming’s rendition lack specialness: while it is wholly appropriate to the song, it misses the “aaah” quality that would get the song traveling the extra distance from our head to our heart.

A signal characteristic of the evening is Cumming’s extremely funny patter—from observations on aging and his experiences becoming an American citizen and participating in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, to an Ann Miller impression. Years ago he worked in stand-up comedy; I daresay he could still score in that arena.

At the piano, Horne supplies solid instrumental support. Moreover, throughout the evening, he projects practically palpable commitment to Cumming and the show, and his broad, easy smile is an irresistible expression of joy and delight. On cello, Yair Evnine produces some of the sweetest sounds you’ll ever hear—warm, rich, and exquisite.

Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Roy Sander has been covering cabaret and theatre for thirty years. He’s written cabaret and theatre reviews, features, and commentary for seven print publications, most notably Back Stage, and for CitySearch on the Internet. He covered cabaret monthly on “New York Theatre Review” on PBS TV, and cabaret and theatre weekly on WLIM-FM radio. He was twice a guest instructor at the London School of Musical Theatre. A critic for BistroAwards.com, he is also the site’s Reviews Editor; in addition, he is Chairman of the Advisory Board of MAC.

Leave a Reply