`

Lou Harry's A&E

Yes, you've found Lou Harry's A&E, IBJ's home for opinion, debate and discussion on arts and entertainment matters in Indy and beyond.  Thanks for stopping by.

Arts & Entertainment, etc.

Review: 'Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs' at the Cabaret

September 13, 2015

I’m replaying the set list in my head and trying to find a single truly sappy song that made it into “Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs,” the program he brought to the Cabaret at the Columbia Club Sept. 12-13.

When I hear sappy, I think Dan Fogelberg. I think of a pony called “Wildfire.” I think of Air Supply running “All Out of Love” and Gilbert O’Sullivan being “Alone Again, Naturally.”

I don’t think of Noel Coward’s “If Love Were All,” Billy Joel’s “Goodnight Saigon” and certainly not the Trojan Ecstasy condom jingle.

Then again, perhaps those songs—except for the jingle—could come across as sappy if performed by someone less talented and charming than Alan Cumming (which is a group that includes just about everyone on the planet).

Known to various arts and entertainment constituencies for his work on TV’s “The Good Wife,” Broadway’s “Cabaret” and “Macbeth,” the bookshelf’s “Not My Father’s Son,” and movies ranging from “X2: X-Men United” to “Titus,” Cumming seemed completely at home on the cabaret stage. In this realm, the ideal is to be a showman and to, simultaneously, be yourself (or, at least, come across as being yourself). Cumming achieved both.

He certainly did it with the most eclectic music choices I've heard at the Cabaret. The set kicked of with his take on the Annie Lennox song “Why,” then moved smoothly into “Somewhere Only We Know” a ballad by English alt rock band Keane. Both were lyrically rich and both likely unknown to a crowd more accustomed to “Moon River” and “Over the Rainbow.” Passion and clarity were key in delivering both, and by the time Cumming covered Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” (yes, you read that correctly) it was clear that he wasn’t here to mock pop tunes, but to explore them with an actor’s eye toward storytelling. These and other songs were smartly mixed with anecdotes about family (the subject of his bestselling memoir), his love life (leading to tattoo removal) and theatrical life (great stories of Liza Minnelli and Tony-Awards hosting).

It takes a performer with enormous confidence to dodge his most familiar work (imagine Idina Menzel not singing “Let It Go” or anything from “Wicked”), but Cumming didn’t dip into the “Cabaret” songbook. Instead he gave up what surely would have been a crowd-pleasing “Willkommen” in favor of an Adele/Katy Perry/Lady Gaga mash-up. He delivered “Complainte de la Butte” in French and explained a long list of Scottish references in such a way that “Mother Glasgow” transcended nationality. Yes, he offered some theater tunes, but he didn't play it safe, opting for “You You You” from Kander and Ebb’s “The Visit” and a biting bit from ‘The Threepenny Opera.”

Then, after mildly mocking Stephen Sondheim, he crowned the evening with a gorgeous “And So It Goes.”

Sappy? Nope. Moving? Absolutely. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Comments powered by Disqus