Tag Archives: Alan Cumming

Neil Patrick Harris and Sting to perform at Tonys

Neil Patrick Harris, Sting, Idina Menzel, Alan Cumming and Sutton Foster — as well as the teaming up of Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight and Fantasia — will perform at the Tony Awards on June 8.

Producers announced a music-heavy lineup that includes all the best new musical nominees — “Aladdin,” “After Midnight,” “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” — and some overlooked ones, including “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Rocky” and “If/Then.” Three revivals — “Les Miserables,” “Violet” and Cumming’s “Cabaret” — will also be featured.

Sting will perform a song from his Broadway-bound musical, “The Last Ship.”

Harris, in the past a winning host, will return to sing a song from his “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” in which he plays a German male transsexual rock singer. He together with a lascivious and edgy Cumming as “Cabaret” emcee may add some spice to the night.

The Tony Awards will be broadcast from Radio City Music Hall on CBS. Hugh Jackman will host.

‘Any Day Now’ chronicles gay adoption ordeal

With films such as Ira Sachs’ “Keep the Lights On” and David France’s “How To Survive a Plague” drawing solid audiences, 2012 has turned out to be another banner year for LGBT films. The year ends on an especially high note with “Any Day Now,” starring out actor Alan Cumming as Rudy, a gay West Hollywood man who must deal with a prejudicial and antiquated court system as he attempts to adopt a boy with Down syndrome in 1979.

Cumming gives the performance of his career and even has the opportunity to sing a couple of numbers in the movie. Written and directed by straight filmmaker Travis Fine, “Any Day Now,” which has won several awards at film festivals, has crossover appeal and the potential to be remembered fondly at Oscar time. It’s scheduled for general release in December.

I spoke recently with Fine.

Gregg Shapiro: What drew you to “Any Day Now”? 

Travis Fine: I respond to characters and situations. There was something that drew me to this notion of this outsider trying to raise this child, trying to save this child – the Rudy character and the young boy being outsiders. There was also something in the situation that moved me as a parent.

Do you know same-sex couples who have adopted or given birth to their own children?

Absolutely. It’s a cliché to say some of my best friends are gay, but I have some very close, dear friends in the LGBT community (and) some of (them) are married, in partnerships, have children. 

The original screenplay that you adapted yours from was set in 1979. Why did you keep that setting?

First of all, (the original) script was inspired by a real person who lived in Brooklyn in the late 1970s. I felt that to honor this person and this story, it made the most sense. Also, I’m a huge fan of ’70s cinema – the gritty, character-driven dramas of the ’70s. I wanted to explore that as a filmmaker, visually and stylistically. From a political point of view, the story would be different in Los Angeles in 2009 or 2012. But as we all know, there are still certain places, even within this country, where the story wouldn’t be that much different. There would be some of the same challenges and hurdles and obstacles.

How important was it for you to have gay actors, such as Alan Cumming, Douglas Spearman and Randy Roberts, in the movie?

Personally, particularly with the Rudy character, with Alan, I thought it was very important. As a straight filmmaker who had the honor of telling an important, profound and moving story about a chapter in the late ’70s of the LGBT movement, it was incredibly important to have Alan take on that role. Not only is Alan a sensational actor, an incredible talent and a wonderful human being, but he’s an OBE, an Order of the British Empire, knighted by the Queen for his work on LGBT rights and equality. He is not just giving lip service to equality, he has fought that fight and been a vocal champion and proponent. Could the film work with a straight actor? Of course it could. Just as a gay actor can play a straight character. At times, I would turn to Alan and ask him what his thoughts were and he brought a certain part of his own personal experience to the role.

Alan’s character Rudy sings in “Any Day Now.” Is that something from the original screenplay or was it added when Cumming was cast as Rudy?

It was actually in between the two. It was not in the original screenplay. Rudy was an unemployed hairdresser. When I updated (the) script, there were a number of elements that I changed significantly. The element of singing came out of my desire as a filmmaker to explore it visually. It was a visual thing. I was watching “The French Connection,” and there’s that great scene in the bar where a woman is singing this song and Popeye Doyle and his partner are looking across the bar at the two bad guys. Those images in those movies stayed with me. 

“Any Day Now” won the Audience Choice Award at the mainstream Chicago International Film Festival. Congratulations.

(They told me that) I shared the honor with another film. At first, I went, “What you mean we have to share the award? We didn’t win it outright?” They said we received the exact same percentage as another film. I asked, “Who’s the other filmmaker?” They said, “Dustin Hoffman.” I said, “I’ll take it” (laughs)! 

Cumming takes his musical act to Chicago

Alan Cumming does it all. He sings and dances in Broadway musicals. He writes and performs his own songs and interprets songs by others. He’s a novelist and an actor, on both the big and small screens.

A man of many voices, the Scottish-born Cummings nails a Chicago accent for his role as Eli Gold in CBS’ “The Good Wife.” And he even had his own line of “Cumming” personal care and grooming products.

I spoke with Cumming in May, shortly before his concert appearance at the Harris Theater in Chicago.

Gregg Shapiro: Your 2009 debut disc is derived from your stage show of the same name – “I Bought A Blue Car Today.” Is your concert a recreation of the show?

Alan Cumming: The show’s kind of evolved since I did it first. There are new songs and new stories. (I) still (perform) quite a lot of songs from the album and I sing some new ones. The overriding theme of the show is me having come to live in America and taking my citizenship test. That’s still the same.

The songs on “I Bought A Blue Car Today” are wonderfully varied. Not surprisingly, you included songs from stage musicals, such as “Mein Herr” from “Cabaret,” in which you appeared. Why did you also choose selections from “Chess” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”?

I don’t do the “Chess” song (“Where I Want To Be”) anymore. I haven’t sung that in a while. I did (“Wig In a Box/Wicked Little Town”) because I wanted to do something from “Hedwig.” During the show I get to sing songs by people I really like and admire and I tell the story of how I met (“Hedwig” writer) John Cameron Mitchell when I first came to New York. I love the idea that I’m singing a song that really should be sung by a German transsexual and I’m singing it as me. I love all that mash-up of ideas and things. And it rocks out, that song.

You also cover songs by an array of legendary pop songwriters, including Cyndi Lauper, Jimmy Webb, Dory Previn and Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil. What was involved in the song selection process of those songs?

The main thing was if I connected to them on some sort of emotional level. That was really the bottom line. I didn’t choose songs thinking, “Oh, I’m going to have a broad wave to show my eclecticism or range or whatever.” I just chose songs that I liked and I felt I could bring something to, that my singing of it would be good and that people would be interested and I would be interested. All of the songs tell some kind of story. I still sing the Dolly/Mika mixture (“Here You Come Again/My Interpretation”), but I haven’t done the Cyndi one for a while. I’ve got this really lovely medley of Elvis Costello’s “I Still Have That Other Girl” with “Losing My Mind” by Stephen Sondheim. That’s really good.

There is humor to be found in songs such as “Thinking of You” and “Beautiful.” Was it important for you to include that aspect of your personality?

In a way, what was scary about doing this show is that it’s me. It’s not a character. I’m being very honest and open. That’s a scary thing to do. So the (song) choices are a reflection of that. I laugh a lot and I find things hilarious. And part of the whole reason I thought this show might be interesting to people is my take on my life here in America and things that have happened to me. I think humor is a great way of sharing ideas and provoking people. Humor for me is a weapon and a cushion.

“The Good Wife,” the TV series in which you portray Eli Gold, is set in Chicago. Do you plan on checking out any of the locations from the series while you are in town?

I don’t know if they actually exist. I think they’re all fictitious (laughs). I don’t think I’ll find a Lockhart Gardner (law firm on “The Good Wife”). I came to Chicago for the film festival last fall while I was shooting “The Good Wife.” It was actually funny to be there and think, “I’m playing someone from here and I pretend to be here all the time,” and I’m going around in the car thinking, “Ooh, what’s this? Where are we?” I met people in Chicago who asked if we did location shooting in Chicago, and I said, “No.” They insisted that we did. And I said, “No, we shoot everything in New York.”

You will be in Chicago the same weekend as the International Mr. Leather festivities. Any chance that you will be checking out the events while you’re in town?

Hello! I love to support the community. And I love a man in leather. Talk about timing!

Alan Cumming performs on May 28 at the Harris Theater at Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph Drive, Chicago.

Queer through the year

“For Him and the Girls”
Hawksley Workman, Isadora

It’s a testament to the timelessness of Hawksley Workman’s music that the reissue of “For Him and the Girls” sounds like he could have written and recorded it yesterday or today.

The out Canadian singer/songwriter and guitar virtuoso, one of the most riveting live performers I have ever experienced, is simply whetting our appetites for his forthcoming album. Songs such as the delectable “No Sissies,” sinister “Tarantulove,” “Sweet Hallelujah” (which lands softly somewhere between fellow Canadians Leonard Cohen and Rufus Wainwright), the exquisite acoustic “Safe and Sound,” and the crazy comfort of “Paper Shoes” are proof that Workman is one of a kind.

Hawksley Workman

I advise you to also snag Workman’s 2001 masterwork “(Last Night We Were) The Delicious Wolves,” which contains the irresistible “Jealous of your Cigarette.”

“Origon: Orphan”
The Hidden Cameras, Arts & Crafts

O, Canada! The Hidden Cameras also hail from that mighty land to our north, but “Origin: Orphan” opens on an exotic note with the Middle Eastern-influenced “Ratify The New.” Then, before you know it, Joel Gibb and company return to their delirious and suggestive chamber pop roots.

Sexually active cuts, such as “He Falls to Me,” “Colour of a Man” and “Kingdom Come,” indicate Gibb still has men on his mind. And he proves himself to be a romantic, both hopeless and hopeful, on “In The NA” and “Do I Belong.”

“Sainthood”
Tegan and Sara, Sire/Vapor

Keeping with the Canadian theme, out twin sisters Tegan and Sara return with another fine album, “Sainthood.” The songs are examples of the twins’ continued growth as one of the most influential musical acts out there. In the same way that Ani DiFranco inspired imitators, it’s easy to imagine girl bands planning to follow in Tegan and Sara’s distinctive footsteps.

“Sainthood” contains all of the elements that have made Tegan and Sara so popular — the unique lyrical perspective, the way their voices spill over each other like waves, their masterful musicianship. Alluring tunes include “On Directing,” “Red Belt,” the thrashing “Northshore,” the biting and blubbering “Alligator,” the fluid “The Ocean” and the compelling “Someday.”

“Music For Men”
Gossip, Columbia

Beth Ditto of the Gossip is another visible out musician who has broken down barriers and received acclaim and adoration. A brash and brazen southern belle, Ditto and her band mates blaze through 13 tunes on “Music For Men,” leaving ashes and asses shaking in their wake.

Equally adept at belting bluesy numbers such as “8th Wonder,” “Dimestore Diamond” and “The Breakdown” as she is at strutting like a disco diva on “Love Long Distance,” “Pop Goes The World,” “Men In Love,” “Love And Let Love,” Beth Ditto is a true original and Gossip is something to talk about.

“Give Up The Ghost”
Brandi Carlile, Columbia

As queer voices go, Brandi Carlile, who performs at The Pabst, Jan. 21, has one for the ages. Soulful and haunting, it’s a voice that sticks to your ribs and brings a range of emotions to your ears. “Give Up The Ghost,” Carlile’s third studio disc, is her most accomplished, accessible and enjoyable. Still in her 20s, Carlile is a seasoned performer, having recently toured with the Indigo Girls (again).

She wastes no time reeling us in with the amazing “Looking Out” and follows it with equally enticing numbers, including “Dying Day,” “Dreams,” “That Year,” “Caroline,” “Before It Breaks,” “If There Was No You” and “Oh Dear.”

“I Bought A Blue Car Today”
Alan Cumming, Yellow Sound

It wouldn’t take much effort to eviscerate “I Bought A Blue Car Today” by out star of stage and screen Alan Cumming. His unique vocal style probably isn’t to all tastes, even those with the least bit of affection for the theatrical or the absurd.

However, I want to commend Mr. C for the notable chances he took on his debut album. “Wig In A Box/Wicked Little Town” from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is a fit for Cumming. So are his renditions of songs by John Bucchino (“Expressed”) and William Finn (“What More Can I Say”), as well as “Where I Want To Be” from “Chess” and Jimmy Webb’s “All I Know.” That said, Cumming falls short on the remainder of the selections, including “Shine” (co-written by “Three Penny Opera” co-star Cyndi Lauper) and bad homages to Sinatra and Dolly (“That’s Life” and “Here You Come Again”).