“My name is Alan Cumming, and I’m a proud Scottish-American. I’m here tonight to remind you of what a great and magical country this can be, and how great and magical it is because of the people who have immigrated here and made it their home.”
This was early in Cumming’s hour-and-a-half-long cabaret show Legal Immigrant at the Paramount Theatre on May 9. The actor and singer had just finished a rousing medley of Walter Marks’s “The Singer” and three Stephen Sondheim songs, with a band comprising cellist Eleanor Norton, drummer/guitarist Chris Jego and pianist and musical director Lance Horne, who grew up in Denver.
Later in the show, Cumming told the audience that he was inspired to start the Legal Immigrant tour after the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services removed the phrase “nation of immigrants” from its website.
“That is historical revisionism happening right in front of us,” he said. “They maybe don’t want to think we’re a nation of immigrants, but we are. But I just feel sad that the nation, a great, great nation that is so full of diversity and so rich in diversity, is trying to pretend it isn’t.”
A Scottish native, Cumming became an American citizen four days after Barack Obama was first elected president. Before then, he’d been living in the U.S. with a green card. "And with a green card, you can do everything a citizen can do,” he told the audience. “You can buy houses. You can pay taxes. You can oppress minorities. But you just can’t vote.”
All of the songs Cumming sang during Legal Immigrant "were by immigrants or people who valued their heritage or people who just haven’t become an American, yet," he said. "You know, we're all immigrants. Unless you're Native American, you are an immigrant or a descendant of one."
Cumming mentioned the nationalities of pretty much every songwriter whose songs he sung. He performed a mashup of Pink’s “Just Give Me One Reason” and Marlene Dietrich’s “Falling in Love Again,” another of Bronislau Kaper’s “Hi-Lilli, Hi Lo” with the Proclaimers’ “I Met You,” and a Disney princess medley that included Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go"; “Part of Your World,” from Little Mermaid; and “Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway,” from Frozen. Cumming also noted that a few songs in the set were about aging. “That’s no accident,” Cumming said. “I’m a 53-year-old man. I know it’s hard to believe.”
He then riffed about how gravity affects us as we get older. On a visit to a dermatologist, he showed the doctor the two red dots he found when he was “checking downstairs.” The doctor told him that was a “normal part of scrotal aging.” There’s a whole lot more to the story, which also includes a bit about lying next to a naked Jessica Lange while filming a movie in Rome and how seeing an older gentlemen in a Budapest bathhouse made Cumming, who was in his early thirties at the time, run to get a jockstrap.
But while some of Cumming’s stories were hilarious, the songs he sang about aging, particularly Scotsman Dougie MacClean’s “Caledonia” and Horne’s “Last Day on Earth,” were particularly poignant, especially with the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus joining the band on the latter.
The chorus helped Cumming near the end of the show with a powerful take on Adele’s “When We Were Young,” which gradually ramped up with intensity, as well as Edith Piaf’s “Hymne a L’Amour,” and the show closer, “Tomorrow,” from the musical Annie.
And in Cumming’s version of things, you know damn well that the sun will come out tomorrow, even in bleak times like these.