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Theater review: Alan Cumming in 'I Bought a Blue Car Today' at OCPAC

September 27, 2009 |  2:45 pm

Alan Cumming2

You know you’ve arrived when you become a vitamin. Scottish actor-singer Alan Cumming, cast as the Great Gazoo in “The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas,” was informed by excited producers that his character had enough heat to make it into a bottle of Flintstones vitamins. “I like to think of chubby American children chewing on me,” Cumming muses in his diverting new cabaret show, “I Bought a Blue Car Today."

This droll, naughty and seriously dishy evening, which ran Saturday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, plays this week in the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse. Whether you fell for Cumming’s arresting Tony-winning Emcee in “Cabaret,” or hold a special place in your heart for “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion,” “Blue Car” affirms that Cumming is a born performer, delighted by his showbiz life and eager to share its juicy details.

Flanked by a five-piece band led by musical director Lance Horne, Cumming, dressed in tidy black, has an easy way with an audience. That wicked little grin gives him permission to say and sing just about anything, whether it’s teasing Horne about a mutual ex-lover, sounding off on gay marriage or belting out a Dolly Parton favorite.

The title of the cabaret comes from a sentence this Scottish-born talent had to write for his naturalization test to become a U.S. citizen. And the surreal world of American fame, which has landed Cumming in such diverse enterprises as art films (Julie Taymor’s “Titus”), cable TV (“Sex and the City”) and his own fragrance line, is the arena for “Blue Car.”

For this chatty raconteur, anything that happens — in "Rock Vegas" or the back seat of a taxi — becomes fair game for a story or a song. In 90 playful, occasionally rambling minutes, we hear anecdotes bittersweet and saucy -- among these are the best stories about Ann Miller and Walter Cronkite you are likely ever to hear.

Cumming’s playlist is equally refreshing. He opens with Cyndi Lauper’s “Shine,” pausing to consider the ill-fated 2006 revival of “Threepenny Opera” in which they both appeared.  His costume, designed by Isaac Mizrahi, included skintight trousers that left nothing to the imagination. “My package got a better review than I did,” laments Cumming.

His set goes on to include everything from a love song to a Starbucks barrista to a medley from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” as well as a rarely performed number from a notorious musical. And I will win no points for originality here, but his ferocious rendition of “Mein Herr” from “Cabaret” makes you wish for a time machine to catch his Tony-winning performance alongside the late Natasha Richardson.

As a singer, Cumming seems most expressive when he has a number to perform as a piece of theater.  Getting lost in a character seems to free him more than delivering the breathier, sincere ballads. Yes, this irrepressible scamp has feelings. But he is first and foremost fabulous.

--Charlotte Stoudt

I Bought a Blue Car Today,” continues at Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood. 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Ends Oct. 4. $55-$75. (310) 208 5454. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Photo: Alan Cumming in New York. Credit: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles TImes

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