Song & Stage

Alan Cumming Heads to WHBPAC on Friday, July 6

Don't miss his new cabaret, the Legal Immigrant Tour.

renaissance man of stage and screen, Alan Cumming is coming to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Friday, July 6. This Tony, Emmy and Olivier award-winning actor, singer, writer, producer and director is bringing his brand-new one-man cabaret, called the Legal Immigrant Tour, to the East End. Get set for an evening of song, story telling and provocation, all delivered in Cumming’s charming, thick Scottish accent.

“It’s 10 years since I became a U.S. citizen,” says Cumming, in explaining the title Legal Immigrant. “And the subject of immigration has changed in the last 10 years—this country seems to have moved away from seeing itself as a nation of immigrants, which is terrifying to me.” Cumming sees the change as stemming from an effort to erase certain groups of people from history.

Few artists would seem better positioned to fight back against such an effort than Alan Cumming. Well-known for playing leads in films like Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and The Anniversary Party as well as for his television work on shows like The Good Wife, Cumming is currently playing the lead on the CBS series Instinct. “It’s the first network show to have as a main character a person in a same-sex marriage,” says Cumming. It’s an example of art imitating life. Cumming himself is in a same-sex marriage—he has been legally married to illustrator Grant Shaffer since 2012.

So nobody’s going to be erasing Cumming’s contributions any time soon. In fact, Cumming has come to occupy a unique position in American culture: a Scottish, openly gay stage, film and television actor and singer who’s at the same time firmly lodged as a household name.

Alan Cumming, Photo: Courtesy WHBPAC
Alan Cumming, Photo: Courtesy WHBPAC

As such, Cumming is the rare artist with both the talent and the star power to draw people in for a show that’s really just about HIM. And not only the one time. The Legal Immigrant Tour is the third cabaret show Cumming has done in recent years—it’s a type of performance that he adores but that took him a while to adopt for himself. “In doing these shows I’m asking an audience to see ME,” Cumming says. “Doing a show as yourself is a huge leap.”

It’s also a challenge to put together. True cabaret is a somewhat ill-defined, hybrid sort of performance—part concert, part comedy act, part story-telling, all fabulous. It was once quite common but is now fairly rare (although it continues to thrive in gay nightclubs). So it can be hard to even know where to begin crafting a new show.

In choosing songs, Cumming relies on advice he got from Liza Minnelli. “She told me to look for songs that are acting songs—I can act them and inhabit them.”

“You have to let it ferment,” Cumming says. “There’ll be songs I’d like to sing, and I will start to toy with them at sound check. It’s amazing when you start singing something and the band responds.” Sometimes, Cumming will show up at Club Cumming—yes, he has his own (fabulous!) nightclub in the East Village—to try out material for a new show in front of an audience. But there’s only so much preparation he can do. “We debuted the new show in Seattle a few weeks ago, and that’s the first time we ran the whole thing,” he says.

For Cumming, it’s fundamentally important to maintain his own identity throughout his cabaret shows. “It’s a tradition for singers to disguise their native accents when they sing,” he says. “But these shows are about my being. I want to connect in a personal way.” Hence, Cumming will deliver the songs with his charming, thick Scottish accent.

What else should you expect from a legal immigrant?

See, and hear, Alan Cumming at WHBPAC, 76 Main Street, Westhampton Beach on Friday, July 6 at 8 p.m. 631-288-1500, whbpac.org

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