The One and Only Alan Cumming Is Coming to Mondavi

by Colt McGraw

Alan Cumming is a shape-shifting trickster, as enthralling and nimble with Shakespeare as he is with show tunes.

Star of stage (“Cabaret”), screen (“Burlesque”) and television (“The Good Wife”), the Scottish wild man will make a rare Northern California appearance this Friday, March 31st at the Mondavi Center in Davis.

“Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs” is an eclectic, wildly entertaining mix of intimate stories, from the sentimental to the sassy, and witty reinterpretations of pop songs and stage classics.

Joining Cumming on stage for a night of irreverent humor and mischief making is long-time collaborator and Emmy Award-winning musical director Lance Horne.

Outword caught up with the multi-talented performer by phone a week before his scheduled appearance in Davis. Following are excerpts from that conversation.

Q: What goes through your mind before you step out on that stage, Alan?

A: I have a little ritual with my band.  We look into each other’s eyes and jump up. It’s a funny little ritual we do.  Then the band goes out to tune up.  Then I’m left to get nervous and antsy.   You have to walk out thinking two things -- one: “Oh my God, I’m about to walk out and be very, very vulnerable and sing these intense and emotional songs.” The second is: “Commit, commit, commit.”

Q: In your excellent memoir, “Not My Father’s Son”, you wrote very movingly of the tumultuous relationship you had with your father. Have you made peace with the past?

A: It’s a very positive thing because he’s in my life on my terms now.  That’s how I look at it.

Q: Are there any roles that you hope to play that you haven’t yet?

A: No. I don’t really think like that.  I don’t really yearn for anything. I just wait to see what comes along.  There are a couple irons in the fire, but I’m not one of these people that have goals for different roles.  I just keep myself open.

Q: You were born in Scotland, but you currently have dual citizenship.  Would you care to share your political views in regards to American politics today?

A: I think its horrifying; it’s absolutely embarrassing, absolutely terrifying.  We’re living in a very dangerous time that’s becoming a dictatorship with corruption at the highest office of the land, which is ridiculous and a disgrace.  I can’t believe this has happened, and I just think Americans have to look at why this happened and how we’ve let the value of education slip.  I’m just trying not to normalize it.

Q: You were so good on “The Good Wife.” Did fans of the show ever forgive you for deleting that phone message from the heroine’s ex?

A: Yeah.  I think that was a good thing about the last season, when he finally fessed up and admitted it.  That was an amazing return to the story after so long.

Q: How would you describe Alan Cumming, in your own words?

A: I’m pretty fun and open, kind…that kind of stuff, kind of an okay person.  I’m a very positive person.

Q: Are there any responsibilities that come with being a bisexual public figure?

A: I go all over the world and people come up to me and say things like, “I came out to my parents because you made me feel confident.”  It’s something I take very seriously.  It’s quite a good thing because by being myself, I’m spreading a good message and helping people.  That’s a really great thing, I don’t have to do anything, I just have to be me.

Q: In a recent interview you stated that your mother referred to you as precious and your father as worthless.  You said you didn’t believe either one.  What do you believe?

A: If you could imagine that the two most influential people in your life are saying two completely different, radical things, they can’t both be right.  It made me think of what I thought was true, to judge myself instead, instead of listening to other people’s opinion.  So, it’s actually really a positive thing in a way.

Q: If you were planning a dream dinner party, what six people would you invite?

A: I’d have my granny; she was hilarious.  I would have Armistead Maupin because he’s such a great storyteller, and he’s coming to stay with me this weekend. Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, Sean Connery, James Baldwin and Liza!

For more information about Alan Cumming’s concert this Friday, visit www.Mondaviarts.org.

Colt McGraw is a freelance writer in Sacramento, and frequent contributor to Outword. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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