‘Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs’ at WHBPAC on July 9

‘Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs’ at WHBPAC on July 9

Alan Cumming is just one of those people—he’s comfortable in his own skin and has a boundless enthusiasm and curiosity. People like that are rare. Rarer still are people like that who can act, sing, write, direct, produce, and are actively involved with politics and other causes about which they’re passionate.

Maybe you know Cumming from X-Men when he played the blue mutant Nightcrawler. Maybe you watched him on television when he hosted the 69th Annual Tony Awards with Kristin Chenoweth, or saw him on The Good Wife as the lawyer Eli Gold. If you were very, very lucky, you were in the Broadway audience when he was the emcee in Cabaret in 1998 and again in 2014.

When Cumming performs the cabaret show Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) on Saturday, July 9, you’ll have the rare chance to see him as he is: not playing a character, just Alan Cumming, a man with a lilting Scottish accent, dynamic stage presence and who loves to sing.

“It’s just me, talking and singing songs. There’s no artifice,” Cumming says. “I try to include as many people as I can. Making eye contact, singing right to them. Although,” he laughs, “if there’s a lot of light pointed at the stage it’s hard to see past that.”

Part of the inspiration for Sappy Songs came about during an after-hours get-together Cumming hosted in his 2014 Cabaret dressing room. Club Cumming, as it came to be known, was a place where the cast, crew and friends and family could unwind and listen to music as Cumming played DJ and sang. He noticed the emotional reaction people would have to particular songs and decided to build on that.

“It’s about connecting with the audience, developing that intimacy. I just sing things that make me feel, and I want the audience to feel. You know, cabaret is about the different emotions we experience. A smorgasbord of emotions. It’s not supposed to be something rote,” he says.

His set list for the show, which premiered at Café Carlyle in 2015, has included songs that are a bit outside the canon of what is traditionally considered “sappy.” There’s a mashup of Adele, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry songs called “Someone Like the Edge of Firework.” Avril Lavigne’s emo pop anthem, “Complicated,” is belted out in its entirety, as is Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb.” It’s not all Top 40, though. Tunes from Annie Lenox, Billy Joel, Rufus Wainwright and Elaine Stritch, among others, have also been featured.

When asked if there’s a recent song he’s thought about singing, Cumming says, “‘Love Yourself,” by Justin Beiber.” It might not be the obvious choice, but Cumming isn’t going for obvious. “For me it’s the connection I feel when I hear a song. That kind of transporting quality certain music has. It brings up a memory. We’re so into ourselves and music has the power to bring us out if that, to help us notice the world.”

Interspersed with the songs are personal anecdotes, some relating to Cumming’s 2014 memoir, Not My Father’s Son, about his abusive father and search for the cause of his maternal grandfather’s mysterious death. Others are tales of tattoo removal, Liza Minnelli or hosting the Tonys. Whichever songs Cumming sings or stories he tells, audiences will surely be entranced by his magnetic performance. There’s something voyeuristic about watching such a vulnerable display of raw emotion. Even though the fourth wall is nonexistent in Sappy Songs, the viewers are safely ensconced in their seats while Cumming, on stage for all the world to see, sings his heart out.

Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs will be at the WHBPAC on Saturday, July 9 at 8 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit whbpac.org or call the box office at 631-288-1500.

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