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Alan Cumming - I Bought a Blue Car Today

Published Thursday 3 September 2009 at 12:25 by Mark Shenton

Last seen on the London musical theatre stage when he starred as the Emcee in Donmar Warehouse’s 1993 revival of Cabaret, Alan Cumming is now master of ceremonies to his own intimate, personal and personable cabaret that brings us up to date on where he has been for most of the last decade, both personally and professionally.

Although we’ve also seen him in the intervening period in plays like Bent and The Bacchae over here, he’s been based mainly in New York, his adopted home. For some, a little of Cumming may go a long way - and it might be said that he’s made a little go a long way, too, turning himself into a very particular kind of Manhattan celebrity who has hosted Saturday Night Live (without quite realising its cultural significance, he insists) but didn’t know that the elderly gentleman he had brought up onstage to dance with him in the Broadway edition of Cabaret was iconic American broadcaster Walter Cronkite until afterwards.

Underneath the casual boasts of such cultural blunders of an innocent abroad, there is, however, a knowingness, too, about the value of being different that has marked him out. He retains his own Perthshire accent, for instance, for added effect on many of his songs. He has long traded on his sexual androgyny (he has been married to both a woman and is now in a civil partnership with a man), cheeky chappie persona and sheer force of personality, which is only just this side of overpowering.

But he harnesses it to good effect in this intentionally informal show. It may be a little too generous on the “blather” front - Cumming has a fund of stories to accompany every song, and a name to drop to go with most of them - but the quirky, eclectic mix of songs, that stretches from Cyndi Lauper (with whom he worked on a Broadway revival of The Threepenny Opera), Cole Porter, and Victoria Wood to himself and his excellent onstage musical director Lance Horne, provides a musical journey that is full of pleasure and surprising treasures.

Looking a bit like Marc Almond playing Tintin, with his hair cut into a short blonde spiked fringe, he is an expressive and alert singer, who brings both feeling and meaning to his material. I could have done with more music and less chat - he may need a director to shape the sometimes indulgent evening better, but the quirky, rambling structure is also part of its charm.

Production information

Vaudeville Theatre, London, September 1-6

Musical director:
Lance Horne
Producers:
Neil Eckersley and Paul Spicer for Speckulation Entertainment, Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer for Nimax Theatres
Cast:
Alan Cumming
Running time:
2hrs

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15
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