Music & Nightlife

6 questions for actor Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming
Alan Cumming

Whatever your taste in entertainment, it’s likely you’ve come across award-winning Alan Cumming. He’s appeared in mainstream films (all three “Spy Kids” and “Spice World”) and critically acclaimed ones (“Nicholas Nickleby” and “Any Day Now”), and co-starred on TV’s “The Good Wife” for six years (for which he received multiple Golden Globe and Emmy nominations). He’s done big-league Shakespeare and won a Tony for “Cabaret.” His current concert tour, “Alan Cummings Sings Sappy Songs,” is a cabaret of his own, where he’s as likely to take on Avril Lavigne as he is Sondheim. The tour, which started in 2015, makes its way to Belk Theater on Sunday. Cumming recently spoke to the Observer about the intimacy of live singing and touring the United States now, as the LGBTQ community, of which he’s a member and for which he’s an activist, comes under attack.

Q: What’s on your agenda today?

A: Today I met with the first minister of Scotland. I had breakfast with Nicola Sturgeon (head of the Scottish government), got my hair cut for my TV show, and now I’m going to talk to you and voice a dog (for the upcoming animated feature “Show Dog”).

Q: I read you used to be apprehensive about singing live without playing a character. Have you come to enjoy it?

A: I really love the way I connect with the audience, It’s intimate and authentic – different than being an actor. There’s usually the veil of the character. It’s been helpful to me, too. Last night I got an award and I didn’t make up a speech (beforehand). I have much more confidence now.

Q: You do a lot of contemporary songs. How did you choose the songs?

A: If my singing it is different or changes the song or makes you listen to it in a different way. I think (the audience is) here to see me interpret things I connect with, emotionally. Sometimes they’re songs that I really enjoyed and realized you weren’t hearing the whole song. Often with pop music, it’s overproduced. You don’t always hear the lyrics. That’s why I do poppy things that people are surprised by.

Q: As someone who chose to become a U.S. citizen, what are your thoughts on the current political environment?

A: Ashamed, horrified, embarrassed, disgusted. I can’t believe it. I think it’s a really horrible time we’re living in. I’m doing everything I can to try to make sure it doesn’t continue. Anti-intellectualism – this glorification of ignorance and encouraging the very worst of people’s characters is so horrible and upsetting to me.

Q: Does it make you reconsider living here?

A: It’s my home. I made my life here. I’m a citizen, an immigrant like a huge percent of the population. I’ll try and fight for the America that I wanted to be a citizen of, which has values, kindness and compassion and isn’t racist and misogynist. Everyone has to take responsibility. This is what happens when you let standards slip. People don’t have the tools to make good decisions. To make America really great again, education should be the first thing.

Q: Touring is much less isolated than being on a film or movie.

A: If you’re going to come to see me, you probably know my political opinions. Even if people disagree with you, if you do something with authenticity and commitment, people respect that. It’s a great time to be traveling the country and meeting people and being reminded it’s a phase and it’s not representative.

Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs

When: 7 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St.

Tickets: $20-$69.50, $89.50 VIP.

Details: 704-372-1000;