Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Alan Cumming: Legal Immigrant
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol

Alan Cumming
Photo Courtesy of Alan Cumming /
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
In addition to being a Tony winning actor and a New York Times bestselling author, Alan Cumming is a fearless, funny and eclectic entertainer. His most recent cabaret concert, "Legal Immigrant," played at Scottsdale's Center for the Arts on December 10 and proved to be a topical, moving, and highly entertaining event.

Full of charisma and charm, Cumming is a multi-faceted entertainer who has played a wide range of roles on stage, in film, and on TV. He's also a gifted storyteller and singer, and his concerts include an assortment of stories from his life, both poignant tear jerkers as well as humorous ones that feature name-dropping some of his adventures with his A-list Hollywood friends. His shows also include a wide range of songs from pop covers to Broadway tunes.

Cumming said the name for this tour came to him due to the fact that a little over 10 years ago, he became a U.S. citizen, yet he was incredibly upset when earlier this year the current political administration, which has vastly different views on the role immigrants play than he does, removed the statement "Nation of Immigrants" from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website. He stated that we are all either immigrants or descendants of immigrants and that America is great because of the role immigrants have played in making it great. The concert featured stories and songs that highlighted Cumming's belief in the strengths that immigrants have provided as well as those that touched upon his political opinions. To further prove his point in how we are all immigrants, Cumming mentioned the nationality of the songwriter for every song he sang in this evening as well as those of his exceptional quartet, which was led by musical director, arranger and pianist Lance Horne.

Cumming loves medleys, or "mash ups" as he said kids today call them, and the evening featured several, including a rousing opener that started with the Walter Marks tune "The Singer," which Liza Minnelli recorded in the early 1970s and whom he said told him when he recently visited her in Los Angeles that he had to sing it in this concert. This medley also included two Stephen Sondheim songs, "Old Friends" and "Losing My Mind," which collectively allowed Cumming to become the characters in each song and show a wide range of varying emotions. The lyric from Marks' song, "is he the singer or the song?," tied into the personable delivery that Cumming brings to each song he sings but also keeps the audience guessing about just how personal the song lyrics are to him.

Throughout the evening, Cumming interweaved humorous stories and personal anecdotes amongst a string of songs as wide ranging as an expert cover of P!nk's hit "Just Give Me a Reason" and a version of the Peggy Lee classic "Is That All There Is?," which had an expert arrangement from Horne that made it sound as if it was written by Kurt Weill. The stories included comical ones about events at his East Village, New York City bar Club Cumming, including the night that he and Emma Stone sang "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid accompanied by Paul McCartney on piano, plus how he was told by the police advisor on his new CBS drama "Instinct" that his wide gun stance was too "Broadway."

There were also many tales that touched upon aging and his love for his homeland of Scotland, highlighted with superb song selections, including Cumming's moving and heartfelt rendition of Dougie MacLean's Scottish folk ballad "Caledonia" that brought tears to his eyes. Two Disney songs, "How Far I'll Go" from Moana and "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid, tied directly into Cumming's story of how he couldn't wait to get out of his small town in Scotland. A powerful take on Adele's "When We Were Young" and an incredibly moving delivery, in both French and English, of Edith Piaf's "Hymne à l'amour" ("Hymn to Love") expertly touched upon his tales of aging. Also, an original tune from Horne, "Last Day on Earth," brought the evening to a poignant yet uplifting ending. An encore of "Tomorrow" from Annie, in which Cumming stressed that even in the bleak, political climate we live in, we just have to remember that the sun will come out tomorrow, provided the perfect way to cap off the night.

Cumming is exuberant, seductive and playful, with a wicked sense of humor but he can also be soft spoken, gracious and introspective. He also infuses each lyric and every word in his patter with poignancy and humor and makes the stories he tells sound as if he's telling them for the first time, with a forceful stage presence that draws the audience in. The Virginia G. Piper Theater has excellent sightlines and superb acoustics, providing an expert feeling of intimacy for such a large venue, which works exceptionally well for a cabaret concert like Cumming's, which featured so many personable and relatable stories.

Alan Cumming: Legal Immigrant performed at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on Monday, December 10, 2018. Information for upcoming concerts at the SCPA can be found at