Alan Cumming Is Not Acting His Age review – much music, little material

he promise is that Alan Cumming will talk about ageing through a medley of stories and songs. He comes on stage looking spry and super fit in a sleeveless waistcoat and says he is told he does not look his 56 and a half years (he doesn’t).

A four-piece band plays as he croons to Charles Strouse’s But Alive and it sets the mood. The band is excellent and the crooning is good but there are several more songs and we wait for the story part of the evening to begin in earnest as Cumming tells us about his relief at being able to fly to Australia again and his cabaret bar in New York’s East Village, Club Cumming.

It is only 25 minutes in that he begins grappling with his subject matter, which seems like too slow a warm-up for a show that is an hour and 15 minutes long. As part of a longer, cabaret-style night, Cumming’s relaxed pace would work perfectly but here it feels too light and gentle, his material scant, the stories lacking bite and often cut short by the music.

There is no doubt Cumming can belt out a power ballad and sing with feeling but the cover songs come thick and fast (from Adele to Peggy Lee to a number from Disney’s Moana). There is one original song about surgical enhancement (“Don’t go to the plastic surgeon any more. I have not seen your eyebrows raised since 2004 …”), but then he is back to the covers.

Too many of the stories circle around his famous friends without a greater purpose: the time when Sean Connery called him “sweet prince”, and when Paul McCartney, Emma Stone and Billie Jean King came to his bar (McCartney accompanied him in a song with his harmonica) and the time he went to Carol Channing’s 95th birthday party with Florence Henderson (who starred in The Brady Bunch).

There are some neat lines and a few potentially powerful moments – a story about the death of his pet dog is too brief but both funny and moving as he speaks of being approached at the pet hospital by a woman with a laminated price list for urns, even before his dog has died.

There is little doubt that Cumming is a charismatic performer – exuberant, warm and a natural storyteller – but we want much more of in the way of stories from this show.

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