EIF 2016: Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs, The Hub, Review

Submitted by Ken Wilson on Thu, 18 Aug '16 8.45pm
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Edinburgh International Festival
Alan Cumming (singer) to), Lance Horne (pianist arranger), Stuart Semple (drummer), Eleanor Norton (cellist)
Running time

Was there ever a more unlikely star than Alan Cumming? The Dundee lad became the toast of Broadway, a Bond henchman and Eli Gold, the Mr Fixit in seven seasons of TV’s The Good Wife. A corner of the Hub has been tricked out with uncomfy booths, the G&Ts come premixed cans and the merlot is Echo Falls in a plastic bottle. Toto, I don’t think we are in Sardi’s anymore.

This is cabaret Edinburgh International Festival style and although the setting may be homespun, the act certainly is not. Cumming opens with the old Annie Lennox torchsong Why. It’s a brave, surprising and emotional choice and not the easiest song to sing or draw in an audience with. But Mr Cumming is nothing if not a magician. His accent, an odd cocktail of Scottish mixed with something mid-Atlantic takes a little getting used to. This evening’s repertoire, he says, is made up of “songs I connect with and I hope you do too – get your hankies ready!”

The banter is openhearted and painfully honest too – he admits that he first came to the Edinburgh Festival when he was 19 with his barely-remembered double act Victor and Barry. There are stories about his tattoos, about his long lost grandfather and the abusive father who disowned him, how he flopped on Broadway in The Threepenny Opera (and sings an affecting number from it that’s not Mack the Knife), and palling around with Liza Minnelli and Rufus Wainwright.

It’s been no ordinary life. And the songs aren’t ordinary either. There is Wainwright’s Dinner at Eight, Adele’s Someone Like You, Billy Joel’s Goodnight Saigon and Michael Marra’s Mother Glasgow and later on the darkly bitter Ladies Who Lunch which Elaine Stritch made her own.

Alan Cumming has taken the advice of Liza Minnelli who told him “be a showman, but retain your authenticity”.

It’s a night rich in laughter mixed with tears. The songs are not sappy at all and, Alan, neither are you.

Club Cumming will take place on 20, 21, 26 and 27 August, from midnight until late.

Tickets: available on the door for £10 (cash and card) or book online.