Alan Cumming closed an eight-night run in London’s West End last night. I Bought a Blue Car Today, his one-man show of songs and anecdotes, is nothing less than sublime. From the minute the curtain rises and he breaks instantly into an exhilarating version of Shine that rivals Cyndi Lauper’s original, he’s hooked you.
Cumming offers up a whole romp of a night with songs from a wide range of genres. With them he shares the provenance of the songs’ importance to him. He talks openly and lovingly about his husband, Grant Shaffer. He tells of being invited to crash on the couch of John, a New York friend-of-a-friend who was lovely and generous and working on a new character at the time named Hedwig. Fast-forward to Cumming giving us a thrilling medley of the emotional highs and lows of John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch. And so goes the rest of the evening.
Mr. Cumming’s voice is smooth and powerful, it’s beautiful really, but indeed, it’s his ability to exude a natural authenticity that earns him the hearts of those in the audience. We feel an intimate connection with the artist.
You may know him from his Tony-award winning performance in Cabaret, or as Nightcrawler in X2 or from other films, or even his Sebastian Flight TV character from High Life — this man has worked constantly for nearly 30 years. Seeing Alan Cumming onstage as himself in this, his concert debut, is something altogether different. It’s like the best proper first date you ever had. He talks to you with a lovely mixture of intimacy, flirtatiousness, humour, a well-exercised intellect and emotional honesty. Then there are all the love songs he croons your way. At the end of the night, you can’t wait to see him again.
Cumming is graced onstage and off by the talented Lance Horne who serves as musical director. Horne gorgeously arranged the show and wrote/co-wrote some of the material. His influence is obvious and appreciated. An eight-piece band of strapping young men brings verve to the instruments including strings, brass, drums and piano.
I Bought a Blue Car Today was previously performed at the Sydney Opera House and at New York’s Lincoln Center. It next moves to Costa Mesa, California and then back to New York, this time at the Highline Ballroom.
If you aren’t able to see the show in person, a CD of the same name will be released on September 22. Its 14 tracks don’t capture all of the songs of the show, nor, as a studio album, do they replicate the power and energy of Cumming singing to a live audience. A DVD would be a treat. But the album gives some insight into the vision for the show, the liner notes recount abbreviations of some of the stories and the voice is solid even if lacks some of the tones that sound so original onstage. It’s worth getting. Where else are you going to find a medley — a kick-ass medley — of Dolly Parton’s Here You Come Again and Mika’s Interpretation?