Alan Cummings and his crew at the end of his American Debut show on Oct. 23. The performance took place at the Staller Center and received a standing ovation from the audience. JUSTIN MITSELMAKHER / THE STATESMAN

On Saturday, Oct. 23, performer Alan Cumming came to SBU to make the American Debut of his new show, “Alan Cumming is Not Acting His Age.” Cumming’s new cabaret show was full of witty anecdotes, emotional tell-alls and surprising revelations. 

Cumming is a well-known actor, writer, singer, producer and activist. You may know him from his infamous roles as Mr. Floop in “Spy Kids” or Emcee in “Cabaret.” Not only is he famous for performing but he is also known for his activism. The proud vegan has won numerous humanitarian awards, including the ACLU Freedom Award and a PETA Humanitarian Award. Cumming’s other accomplishments include being the author of many books, including his No.1 New York Times Bestseller book “Not My Father’s Son.” Even with all of those roles to fill, Cumming still has time to stop by the cabaret bar in New York City, which he owns, called Club Cumming

Cumming entered the stage with a classic grey sleeveless vest and was immediately greeted with an uproar of anticipatory applause. The almost full house quieted down to hear him perform his first song medley of the night, “But Alive” by Lauren Bacall and “Sing Happy” by Liza Minnelli. 

As the night went on he discussed his relationship with aging, death and even encouraged the audience to get their testicles checked. Cumming used funny, tear-jerking and eccentric stories to bring the songs cohesively together throughout the show. During the stories he name-dropped quite a few celebrities, including Sean Connery, Kristen Chenoweth and Florence Henderson. 

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He performed a variety of songs from Adele to a Disney Princess Medley, even showcasing an original song. Overall, the first American performance of his show was a success, ending with a two song encore and a standing ovation from the electric audience. 

The Statesman spoke with Cumming earlier in the week prior to his performance about his new show, what inspires him and his books.

The Statesman: So, since the American Premiere of your new tour is on Saturday, what can audiences expect to see? 

Cumming: I do these shows that are sort of old fashioned cabarets. It’s me with a band and I sing songs and tell stories. This theme is about getting older and what is age appropriate, time passing. I mean I love the form of cabaret because you can sort of do a variety of different things all lined up next to each other. I mean it could be making everyone laugh at one moment and then singing about a tender song. It is a wee old fashioned, kind of smorgasbord of songs and stories. 

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The Statesman: You are a multi-talented person. You have done film, Broadway, singing and writing. What inspired you to put this show on now? 

Cumming: It’s only relatively recently, the last 10 years or so, that I have been doing shows like this and I really like them… It’s just you being yourself and there is not a veil of a character between you… But the reason I wanted to do this show now is because during the pandemic I had a lot of time to think, as everyone did, and I just sort of noticed more and more about how people were talking about age and what you do when and what is expected of you. And I am just really curious about how we let people dictate how we are supposed to live and what we are supposed to do as you get older.

The Statesman: I know that you also are in the process of doing a book tour for your latest book, “Baggage: Tales from a Packed Life.” Will the show correlate with the book in any way, for example through music or stories?

Cumming: I mean I guess the whole show is my baggage cause it is all my music and my stories. There are some stories that I tell in the show that are actually also in the book, yeah. I sort of cross pollinated for sure.

The Statesman: As a New York Times Bestseller, you have written a few books. Which book was the hardest to write? I imagine it was “Not My Father’s Son.”

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Cumming: Yeah, I think it probably was. I think all writing is kind of hard. Writing a book is such a big commitment… “Not My Fathers Son” was quite difficult because it was the first time I had written about my life. I actually wrote it quite quickly compared to my latest one…I felt compelled to share this insane thing that happened to me. But it was difficult, and also that I was worried about putting that out and changing the narrative about myself in a way… To this day I get people everyday contacting me, saying how reading the book has helped them deal with stuff in their past or made them more able to confront things. It was an entirely positive thing actually but it was pretty scary.” 

The Statesman: A couple of your most recent series that were released earlier this year were “The Prince” and “Schimgadoon.” In both you had to do accents for the roles, how were you able to master both accents, specifically your American one? 

Cumming: It’s one of those things you have to do as an actor…I sound like this [referencing his Scottish accent] but my job is to not…I think people only think it’s a great thing because they are not used to it. They are not used to actors doing that. And also because I sound so different to what I mostly sound on screen… We [Scottish people] aren’t very seen and aren’t very represented. I am trying to change that. It is rare. 

The Statesman: As a big fan of “Spy Kids” growing up, what attracted you to the character of Mr. Floop? And how do you choose your roles? 

Cumming: Oh, well I loved that script when I read it! It was sort of this magical, almost like a fairytale allegory…I liked the director. It was just one of those things. I go with my gut. That’s why my career is as eclectic as it is. I just sort of do things that I think sound fun and different…I loved the fact that it was a family film…You know kids still watch it today… I really like the way that young adults react to me when I see them… He [Mr. Floop] is childlike and there is sort of an edge to him. I think everyone feels connected to him in a way. 

The Statesman: I noticed that most of your roles in the past have been a mixture of theater, film, television and voice-over acting. Which would you say is your favorite? 

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Cumming: Well, the fact that I do them all signals that I don’t really have a favorite. I like the fact that I was able to do all these different things and I think going from a film to play means that I am actually fresher. And when you aren’t doing something and you go back to do it again you are putting a sort of energy, and not jaded, more focused in a way. I mean if I had a gun to my head I would say theater. It is the way you most connect with people.  

The Statesman: You also have a cabaret club in New York City called Club Cumming where many celebrities have visited. Are there any that you were starstruck by? 

Cumming: I sort of was when Paul McCartney came up, I was a bit starstruck by him. Also, Emma Stone and I sang “Part of Your World” from “The Little Mermaid,” and Paul McCartney played the harmonica. So that was kind of nuts…It is rare that when they come I haven’t already met them. Actually I wasn’t there when Adele and Jennifer Lawerence came. If I’m there and people like that come, I just want to make sure they are comfortable and feel looked after. And also they are there to have a good time. 

The Statesman: I know that you have received an array of humanitarianism and activism awards, Who inspires you the most to keep speaking up and pushing for a brighter future? 

Cumming: I don’t have anyone that is my inspiration…I feel like everybody wants people to have a role model or a person you are inspired by or want to emulate and I don’t have that. I think it is actually important to say you don’t have to have that. You can actually do it yourself. Just be authentic about what you believe and what you think is right…I just think what I think is the right thing to do… It [having a role model] means you are trying to replicate something instead of trying to be authentic to yourself.

The Statesman: Finally, what is one piece of advice that has always stuck with you? And what advice would you give to college students? 

Cumming: You know we live in such a crazy time. The world is changing… Just try to be your authentic self. I think that is something about you that people will connect with and notice and it will make you stand out…I guess just don’t act your age. Don’t be a sheep. That’s boring. I believe that people who connect with themselves, also connect with everybody else and they are happier. And the best advice I got? I guess, I don’t know. Don’t bang into the furniture? However, it might be a challenge.

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