Reviews EdinburghNationalReviews Published 12 August 2016

Review: Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs at The Hub, Edinburgh

6th - 27th August 2016

Making new fans: Chris White reviews Alan Cumming’s performance as part of the Edinburgh International Festival.

Chris White
Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs at The Hub, Edinburgh.

Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs at The Hub, Edinburgh.

You might know Alan Cumming best as Eli Gold, the ruthless political consultant from The Good Wife. Or you might know him better as Fegan Floop, the baddy in the Spy Kids trilogy. Alternatively, you may know him because of his long career on Broadway as a musical theatre star.

Or maybe you don’t know him at all. I sure as hell didn’t.

But after a night at Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs, I now feel like I know him personally. Or at the very least as deeply and as intimately as it is possible to know someone as they stand and sing to a roomful of two-hundred festivalgoers.

Cumming wades through a cacophony of decidedly sappy songs beginning with Avril Lavigne and then moving onto Keane. And straight away you’re struck by his vivaciousness and energy; by the meaning and emotion he charges every single word – yes, even in Keane – and hits every note with.

It is clear Cumming is enjoying himself. Accompanied by Lance Horn on piano, Stuart Semple on drums and Eleanor Norton on cello, the songs are an eclectic mix of musical numbers, modern pop and ballads. Two high points are a beautiful arrangement of Taylor Swift’s The Climb and a vigorous number from The Threepenny Opera.

Sappy Songs feels like a cross between Cabaret and Desert Island Discs. Cumming provides a story with each song he performs, which range from funny and flippant anecdotes to full and frank accounts about his life, family and career.

The show progresses from a place of sappiness and sentimentality to  genuine and moving. Cumming talks about his emotional time on Who Do You Think You Are? and the revelations he was presented with about his granddad. He talks about his difficult relationship with his dad, and about boyfriends and heartbreak. And then he intercuts all this with fantastic, whimsical anecdotes about Judy Garland, bad tattoos and even worse reviews. One of my favourite stories is about him being asked to make a condom commercial with Ricki Lake. Following which he sings the song from the ad – well worth a search on YouTube when you’ve got a moment spare.

It might seem debatable whether this show would appeal to non-Alan Cumming fans. However, before the show I didn’t know who he was – and was therefore in a tiny minority on the night – but now I could happily marry him, so thoroughly entertained was I by his talent, exuberance and wit. Which certainly suggests this isn’t just a show for die-hard Cumming fans. Indeed, you might just become one because of it.

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Chris White is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

Review: Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs at The Hub, Edinburgh Show Info


Cast includes Alan Cumming

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