Alan Cumming Brings Pomp & Purity to Carnegie Hall: Live Review

Alan Cumming
Review
4
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images
<p>With its ornate gold moulding and velvety red seats, New York&rsquo;s iconic Carnegie Hall has had legends from <a href="/artist/305343/judy-garland">Judy Garland</a> to <a href="/artist/383540/beatles">The Beatles</a> take the stage. In such a historic venue, it would seem odd to have poppy anthems like <a href="/artist/297529/britney-spears">Britney Spears</a>&rsquo; &ldquo;Gimme More&rdquo; and <a href="/artist/305595/katy-perry">Katy Perry</a>&rsquo;s &ldquo;Roar&rdquo; bumping through the speakers as fur-clad fans file in for their Monday evening out. However, this delightfully crazy detail was only the first of many that Alan Cumming dared squeeze into his performance of &ldquo;Sappy Songs&rdquo; on 57th Street.</p><p>In June, Cumming performed &ldquo;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/04/arts/music/review-in-alan-cumming-sings-sappy-songs-at-cafe-carlyle-no-emotion-is-left-hidden.html" target="_blank">Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs</a>&rdquo; on the Upper East Side&rsquo;s Café Carlyle, and the stint was recorded live on a <a href="http://yellowsoundlabel.com/album/alan-cumming-sings-sappy-songs-live-at-the-cafe-carlyle/" target="_blank">recently released album</a> with the same gargantuan title. (&ldquo;Club Cumming&rdquo; -- the actual name of the makeshift bar he turned his dressing room into following <em>Cabaret </em>performances -- would be a far more suitable name.) Despite missing a giant neon sign declaring the stage as such (&ldquo;It would have cost $10,000! Share your wealth for important things -- otherwise, you&rsquo;ll leave it to your children who will spend it on hookers and coke&rdquo;), Carnegie Hall undeniably became Club Cumming on Monday night, and it&rsquo;s likely that everywhere Cumming goes does too; the androgynous imp is both quiet and uproarious, adorable and sensual, flippant and emotional, otherworldly and inviting.</p><p>As a Tony Award-winning showstopper or that (Emmy-nominated) guy from <em>The Good Wife</em>, those who know of Alan Cumming are unabashedly entranced by him. Theater enthusiasts worship the man; while it was clear that many of them dotted Carnegie Hall&rsquo;s sold-out seats, his endearing strangeness and undeniable talent left even the most reluctant plus-ones all smiles.&nbsp;</p><p align="center"><strong><a href="/articles/news/6487503/alan-cumming-lena-hall-play-cafe-carlyle-">Alan Cumming, Lena Hall to Play Café Carlyle in Spring</a></strong></p><p>Appearing in a tailored suit with his silver stick-up hair, Alan Cumming looked like a pixie with a secret, flashing knowing looks at the crowd throughout the performance. However, there are no secrets in the realm of Club Cumming, which the audience quickly learned as he spewed candid stories of kibitzing with <a href="/artist/307692/liza-minnelli/chart">Liza Minnelli</a>, getting a past lover&rsquo;s name tattooed on (and painfully removed from) his groin and &ldquo;dancing my tits off&rdquo; in the recent <em>Cabaret </em>revival. He called out latecomers and even asked a gentleman in the front row to &ldquo;please&rdquo; open his water bottle. On any other performer, Cumming&rsquo;s lengthy, frenetic banter could have been obnoxious; in this case, it was absolutely enchanting, especially when paired with his impressive vocal prowess.</p><p>&ldquo;Every single one of these songs touches me emotionally,&rdquo; he said at the beginning of his first act, to which he kindly added, &ldquo;Have a hankie at the ready.&rdquo;</p><p>The entire set was equal parts purity and pomp. Cumming covered <a href="/artist/311278/miley-cyrus">Miley Cyrus</a>&rsquo; &ldquo;The Climb&rdquo; with just as much seriousness as he did <a href="/artist/369279/rufus-wainwright">Rufus Wainwright</a>&rsquo;s &ldquo;Dinner at Eight,&rdquo; the latter of which was in reference to his abusive father. He graciously encouraged his backing band to stand up and receive applause three times throughout the evening. The softness and sincerity in his voice swelled hearts when he spoke about victims of PTSD and said sweet somethings like: &ldquo;I keep my heart open, and dreams do come true.&rdquo; He was generous with those he shared the stage with, including 2015 Tony co-host <a href="/artist/306108/kristin-chenoweth/chart">Kristin Chenoweth</a>, <a href="/artist/300321/darren-criss/chart">Darren Criss</a> of <em>Glee </em>fame, Ricki Lake -- oh yeah, and the entire New York City Gay Man&rsquo;s Chorus.</p><p align="center"><strong><a href="/articles/news/6289270/alan-cumming-shia-labeouf-cabaret-conan">Alan Cumming Explains Shia LaBeouf&rsquo;s &lsquo;Cabaret&rsquo; Freakout</a></strong></p><p>Anything can, will and did happen at Club Cumming. He and <em>Hairspray</em>&rsquo;s Ricki Lake sang through the <a href="http://www.alancumming.com/2009/2015/6/1/evolve-condoms-psa" target="_blank">Ecstacy Condom commercial</a> the two once starred in. He and Chenoweth skewered CBS for paying them less than 3 grand for hosting the 69th (&ldquo;THE 69TH! Think of all the jokes we could have done!&rdquo;) annual Tony Awards. Criss busted out a coffee-shop-worthy rendition of &ldquo;Part of Your World&rdquo; from <em>The Little Mermaid</em>.</p><p>&ldquo;Alan, do you realize you sold out Carnegie Hall?&rdquo; Criss asked, to which he responded, &ldquo;Yes, I do&rdquo; with a confident flourish.</p><p>Cumming had three Kenneth Cole costume changes, all of which were showcased for approximately five minutes or less before he stripped down to the same sleeveless button-down and tie. A cheery mash-up of Katy Perry&rsquo;s &ldquo;Firework&rdquo; (&ldquo;A masterwork, seriously&rdquo;), <a href="/artist/278035/adele">Adele</a>&rsquo;s &ldquo;Someone Like You,&rdquo; and <a href="/artist/306341/lady-gaga">Lady Gaga</a>&rsquo;s &ldquo;The Edge of Glory&rdquo; ended with Cumming proclaiming, &ldquo;They all sound the f---ing same!&rdquo; The great Stephen Sondheim was not even immune from this observation in Cumming&rsquo;s eerie &ldquo;No One Is Alive When I&rsquo;m Around,&rdquo; a combination of <em>Sweeney Todd</em>&rsquo;s &ldquo;Not While I&rsquo;m Around,&rdquo; <em>Into the Woods</em>&rsquo; &ldquo;No One Is Alone&rdquo; and <em>Company</em>&rsquo;s &ldquo;Being Alive.&rdquo;</p><p>For the final number, Cumming appeared, martini glass in hand, to bid farewell with the late Elaine Stritch&rsquo;s signature song, &ldquo;The Ladies Who Lunch.&rdquo; Just as with the rest of his Carnegie Hall stint, the number was both an ode and a knee-slapper.</p><p align="center"><strong><a href="/articles/news/6752896/stephen-sondheim-interview-new-show-lady-gaga-disney">Stephem Sondheim on Seven Decades Of Musical Theater, That (Misquoted) Dig on Lady Gaga and Liking Radiohead</a></strong></p><p>Though Cumming may not be the typical &ldquo;pinkies out, shirt tucked in&rdquo; Carnegie Hall headliner, this is precisely why he&#39;s an icon to behold -- he is unapologetically himself, and with a talent like that, he has no need to apologize.</p>