Alan Cumming’s ‘I Bought a Blue Car Today’: where’s Cash for Clunkers when you need it?
By Steven Foster
In addition to being a television, stage, and screen actor, and reliable fashion police target, Alan Cumming infamously added perfume to his varied résumé. That eponymously titled eau de toilette was christened, not “Alan,” but “Cumming.”
Suffice it to say, Cumming does what he wants. What Cumming wants now is to channel his inner diva, so he has committed his one-man show, I Bought a Blue Car Today (Yellow Sound, available now), to CD. Unfortunately, Cumming devoted the entire disc to his cabaret, neglecting to include any of his incisively witty showbiz insights that made the live stage show tolerable. Void of his gossipy chatter and sounds of an audience tittering their appreciation, Blue Car—the title comes from the sentence he chose to write on his American citizenship exam—lurches awkwardly from gear to gear, swerving toward and subsequently crushing every cone in the Broadway canon. The results are like the car wreck you can turn away from.
His Scottish brogue makes the entire screamscape sound like a terribly eager Brigadoon revival, and the song selections illustrate an eclecticism that is so forced it renders the listener mercilessly confused, if not a victim of Broadway whiplash. One minute he’s channeling Dolly Parton (badly), then he’s reducing the delicate poetry of Jimmy Webb to Blue Mountain greeting-card drivel.
Cumming has the misguided balls to try to cover Frank Sinatra’s classic “That’s Life,” and when he has the shot to make something work, belting out a song from his Tony-winning tour de force in Cabaret, for example, he doesn’t warble his own Emcee showtune, but warps the Sally Bowles number, “Mein Herr.” One self-penned confessional song actually works because it suffers by no competent comparison, but most often the performances are, if not amateurish, simply baffling.
The CD doesn’t smell as bad as Cumming’s ill-named fragrance, but it affronts the senses nonetheless.