Alan Cumming
Alan Cumming
© Tre

Alan Cumming is extremely good company. Even if he didn't sing a note, ninety minutes spent listening to what he describes as 'hilarious showbiz anecdotes' and carefully crafted personal revelation - "have a hankie ready later' - would be time well spent.

The actor, writer and returning Scottish hero, has a knowingly flirtatious delivery, a wide-eyed pleasure in his own outrageousness, and a born showoff's delight in his talent to amuse. But when he does sing, he has a gift for turning the most hackneyed song into a story, burrowing into its words to make each number very particularly his own.

Striding onto the stage in the cavernous setting of the Hub's great hall, more or less successfully turned into a cabaret bar for the duration, he fills the vast space with the blaze of his presence. In black, leather trousers, and a jacket that's stripped off early to reveal a sleeveless shirt - "I've still got it," he preens mischievously - with grey hair slicked elegantly back, he wittily plays the audience, both teasing and satisfying expectations.

The show grew initially, he explains, out of his post show parties when he played the role of the Emcee in Cabaret for the third time in New York. He turned his dressing room into the Club Cumming - and we are now transported back there as the red neon sign glowing against a silhouetted backdrop of Edinburgh reminds us.

These are the songs he played and came to love - "without being judgemental" - in that year and what a mixed bag they are, perhaps less torch song and more pop-y than the title might have led you to expect, but a joyful selection nonetheless. He opens with Annie Lennox's "Why" and immediately shows - with the little spoken phrase "I'm getting old" - his ability to make lyrics speak like drama.

It was, he reveals, Liza Minnelli, who suggested he view each song as a play and it is a skill he has perfected whether revealing Miley Cyrus's "The Climb" as a ferocious statement of intent, or making Rufus Wainwright's "Dinner at Eight" an elegy for his own relationship with an abusive father. His taste encompasses the sentimental Mother Glasgow and some savage Brecht (He's very funny on the effect his performance in The Threepenny Opera had on New Jersey coach parties.)

There are two confident mashups - one of Adele, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga and one of Stephen Sondheim (which he dubs "No One is Alive While I'm Around") and a conclusion that follows Noel Coward's divine "If Love Were All" with an anthemic version of "Ladies Who Lunch". Throughout Cumming transfigures the songs with the insight of his individuality. His Scottish tones lend them a flavour, his performance skills a passionate conviction. It is a great night out.

Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs is at The Hub as part of the Edinburgh International Festival, until 27 August (except 10,14, 15, 22).

For all our festival coverage, click here to head to our Edinburgh page