Actor Alan Cumming, who won a Tony for Cabaret and has starred in films and on TV shows, has always been vocal about his opinions. “Well, vocal about everything, really,” he says.
But the Scotland native, who had been living in America for about ten years on a green card, realized the one thing he couldn’t do with a green card was vote.
“So, I thought I should I put my money where my mouth was and actually become a citizen so my voice is not just one that persuades other people to do what I would like to do,” Cumming says. “I can actually do it myself, too.”
Cumming, who became an American citizen about a decade ago, says he’s caught some flak for being critical of the government, something that some people consider unpatriotic.
“I think quite the opposite,” Cumming says. “I think you’re critical because you believe the country has gone off course. Actually, that’s a very patriotic thing to do, because you’re trying to save your country. So, I just think that it’s a fascinating time we’re living in with all this almost doublespeak. Orwellian doublespeak is happening. That why I became a citizen.”
Cumming’s Legal Immigrant, a show of songs and stories that he’s bringing to the Paramount Theatre on Wednesday, May 9, is about his decision to become an American citizen. He’ll be telling some stories of his life in America and sing songs he loves by Stephen Sondheim, Adele, P!NK, Edith Piaf, a mashup of Schubert and Peggy Lee, and he’ll open the show with a song Liza Minelli told him he had to sing, by John Kander and Fred Ebb, who wrote the music for Chicago and Cabaret.
Cumming is bringing the same band he had for his previous show, Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs, which premiered in 2015 at New York’s Café Carlyle and toured around the world. Musical director and pianist Lance Horne, whose grandmother lives in Denver, cellist Eleanor Norton and drummer Chris Jego will he joined by new member trumpeter Riley Mulherkar, who Cumming says is a protégé of Wynton Marsalis.
“I’m going to be highlighting the legal status of everyone on stage and all the people who have made the songs famous,” Cumming jokes.
Cumming says he called the show Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs because he wanted the audience to know he’d be singing emotional songs.
“I don’t think there’s any point in me singing a song unless there’s something I can bring to it that makes it different or better,” Cumming says. “These songs [in Legal Immigrant] are a continuation of that. They’re songs I’ve either really longed to sing for a long time or I feel like singing them now.”
While Cumming has made singing a side career over the past couple of years, he’s also been busy working on a new book about his life since moving to America and opening a cabaret bar called Club Cumming in New York’s East Village. He's also starring in and producing the crime drama Instinct — based on the James Patterson novel — which is currently airing on Sundays on CBS, and he says it's the first network drama in America to have a gay character in a leading role.
“CBS has an audience that’s generally a little older and perhaps not the most radical of audiences,” Cumming says. “So, I think it’s really great. Those are people, of course, who we have got to actually show things like this to, so they’re not... If you’ve never seen a gay character in a same-sex relationship on your television, I guess that could be quite shocking to you when you see it. But also, I just think that when you’re exposed to things, you’re not afraid of it anymore and they don’t find it unfamiliar or frightening. And that should really change prejudice, and that’s how you make progress.
“That’s why an exchange of culture — that’s why immigration is an important part of how we function as a country. I think it’s really great that CBS has done this at this time, especially we’re in a time where we’re being encouraged to fear the other and anyone who’s different.”
An Evening With Alan Cumming: Legal Immigrant, 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 9, Paramount Theatre, 303-623-0106, $39.50 to $79.50.