Actor Alan Cumming spoke candidly about past sexual encounters, estranged family and his interactions with Liza Minelli in his performance of “Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs with Friends.”
Last Monday, the “Cabaret” star played a cabaret show of his own at Carnegie Hall in conjunction with his new album, “Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs: Live at the Café Carlyle.” The performance delivered humor, camp and costume, but also personal sentiment.
With a small band consisting of piano, drums, guitar and cello, Cumming delivered a very intimate show from a setlist of personally significant songs.
Cumming’s zany and naughty humor shone during several moments, such as when he noted that pop songs and songs by Stephen Sondheim sound very similar in a humorous medley arrangements that he titled “Someone Like The Edge of Firework” (combining Adele, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry) and “No One is Alive While I’m Around” (combining Sondheim’s “No One is Alone,” “Being Alive” and “Not While I’m Around”) as well as when he brought actress Ricki Lake onstage to sing the musical number from the commercial that they both shot for Trojan Ecstasy condoms.
Other notable stars joined Alan Cumming onstage during the show including fellow Broadway performers Darren Criss and Kristen Chenoweth. Criss showed off both his vocal chops and piano skills in a sultry duet of “I Don’t Care Much” from “Cabaret,” followed by a playful rendition of “Part of Your World” from “The Little Mermaid.” Chenoweth and Cumming reminisced on their experience hosting the 2015 Tony Awards and delivered an emotional duet of “When Somebody Loved Me” from “Toy Story 2.”
Cumming’s voice was sensitive yet gruff and his wit was sharp, but this was not surprising. What was truly amazing was the depth of emotion Cumming drew from his performance. Cumming revealed stories of heartbreak, reminisced about his mother country, Scotland, and told the horrifying story about uncovering the previously unsolved mystery of his grandfather’s death.
One particularly tender moment in the show was when Cumming talked about his strained and estranged relationship with his father. He sang a very sensitive version of Rufus Wainwright’s “Dinner at Eight,” prefacing it by explaining his personal connection to the song. When he sang, the sadness and anger in his voice was obvious and all pretenses were thrown out. It was no longer Alan Cumming the performer on that stage, but simply Alan Cumming as himself. At the end of the song, Cumming wiped tears from his eyes, smudging his eyeliner. It was a vulnerable moment for the normally cavalier actor.
Alan Cumming’s album “Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs: Live at Café Carlyle” is currently on sale, while he is touring North America with the cabaret show.
A version of this article appeared in the Feb. 16th print edition. Email Joseph Myers at [email protected]