Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Alan Cumming Is Not Acting His Age
The theme Cumming wove throughout the evening touched upon dealing with aging and how, while there is so much attention paid to looking youthful, we are often also told to "act our age" or to "grow up." It was an interesting topic that allowed Cumming to tell personal stories about how he's now called a "silver daddy" but also still said to be "puckish," and how, now that he's in his late 50s, he's had to deal with an increasing number of deaths of friends and family. It's a topic that almost everyone can relate to, which made for an interesting and intriguing cabaret show.
The 90-minute concert was composed of a series of personal stories that ranged from wry and witty to emotionally moving, which Cumming interwove around a dozen songs that related quite well to the topic of aging. While there wasn't anything revelatory or profound in what he had to say, his personable stories and clear connection to the material shone through.
The show got off on a rousing high note with the upbeat number "But Alive" from Applause, which worked perfectly as a way to kick off an evening about aging since the lyrics speak of a person who says they "feel rotten, yet covered with roses, younger than springtime and older than Moses," but they still feel vibrantly alive. Other selections included songs made famous by Barbra Streisand and Liza Minnelli: the introspective "Everything," which Streisand sang in A Star is Born and the rousing "It Was a Good Time," which Minnelli sang in her TV special, "Liza with a Z."
Other songs included a stirring mash-up of Andrew Lippa's "How Did We Come to This?" from The Wild Party and a song Cumming heard many times during his numerous appearances in the musical he won the Tony for, Cabaret: "Maybe This Time." The lesser-known Billy Joel song "Where's the Orchestra?" was an unexpected addition toward the end of the show as was an original song Cumming wrote called "I'd Like to See You," humorously touched upon the damages of plastic surgery.
The rest of the set list was composed of a few songs Cumming has sung in his previous cabaret shows, two of which he brought to Scottsdale in past seasons, but he even found a way to make those songs relate to the theme of dealing with growing older. These included the Peggy Lee hit "Is That All There Is?" and the gorgeous Adele ballad, "When We Were Young." He also included a story and medley he sang in his last show in town in which he talked about the club he owns in New York City's Lower East Side and the night he and Emma Stone sang "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid accompanied by Paul McCartney. That song was featured in a Disney princess mashup that also included "How Far I'll Go" from Moana and the final lyric from "Let it Go" from Frozen.
Cumming was backed by a superb four-piece band led by musical director and pianist Henry Koperski that also included Chris Jago on drums, Alphonso Horne on trumpet, and Eleanor Norton on cello.
While almost all of the between-song patter was scripted, Cumming came across as personable and real, and he seems to always find a way to connect the stories he tells and the songs he sings to each other as well as to the audience. And, even though the stories touched upon death and aging, he was often playful, humorous and energetic, managing to make a fairly large venue feel intimate as he drew the audience into the show with what seemed like an effortless charm and a wicked sense of humor.
While the Virginia G. Piper Theater has excellent site lines and superb acoustics, there were a few times when Cumming's fairly thick Scottish brogue and fast-paced way of speaking made some of the dialogue and lyrics hard to hear. Fortunately, those were only a few moments in an otherwise exceptional evening of personable stories and songs that were upbeat and funny but also at times quite moving.
Alan Cumming Is Not Acting His Age was presented at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, November 12, 2022. Information for upcoming concerts at the SCPA can be found at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org.