BWW Interview: Alan Cumming on ALAN CUMMING SINGS SAPPY SONGS at The Brown Theatre
Photo courtesy of do502.com.
Interview by Taylor Clemons
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Taylor Clemons. All rights reserved.
Prior to making his Louisville, KY debut on November 30th at the Brown Theatre, Alan Cumming took some time out of his very busy schedule to talk to me about Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs, co-hosting the Tony Awards, Reefer Madness, and much more.
Taylor Clemons: I just wanted to say thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.
Alan Cumming: You're welcome.
TC: Are you excited to be coming to Louisville, and have you ever been here before?
AC: I've never been to Louisville, and I'm very excited to come. It's one of the great things about doing this show, is that I get to go to all these places in America and all over the world, that I've never been to, so I'm vastly excited. I have a friend who works at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. Going to these different places around the country. I always have fun, you know meet really interesting people, and we always go out on the town after the show. It's great exchange, so I hope you don't disappoint me, Louisville.
TC: Absolutely! I think Louisville is a really fun city.
AC: Great, yeah that's what I hear.
TC: Obviously, I haven't seen [Alan Cumming Sings] Sappy Songs yet, but reading the description, it sounds extremely interesting. I'm definitely very interested. I understand that it's a combination of songs from theater and the pop world, and just all of these different genres, and I wanted to know if you had a particular to perform in the show?
AC: No. I mean all the songs are there because I love them all. You know, the shape of the show is such, that when each song comes around, I'm like, "Oh, I get to sing this now", but no, I don't have a favorite in that way. I'm an eclectic person myself, I have all different taste, and the show really reflects that. It's kind of a, sort of a, mesh mash of different genres, but the common thing with them all is that they're my interpretation of all these different things, so I really like them all.
TC: Interesting! As many know, you co-hosted the Tony Awards in 2015 with Louisville favorite Kristin Chenoweth, she's actually been here twice! It wasn't actually that long ago that I remember as a child, watching you, Kristin, and Kathy Bates in Annie. I wanted to know what it was like reuniting with her in such a big way?
AC: Obviously, you know we've known each other, and I'm actually seeing her tomorrow night, I'm going to sing a song at her show on Broadway tomorrow night [Kristin Chenoweth's My Love Letter to Broadway]. We've stayed friends and we've done a couple other projects over the years, I see her out and about as well, but doing that, which is kind of a pretty intense experience, doing the Tonys. It's terrifying. Three hours, live television, in front of an audience of 6,000 people, and you're not really that well prepared to do it. Everything is very last minute, and I'm not the best person to uh, you know if I've got to sing a song and do a dance, I like to have a little bit of rehearsal, so it was terrifying-- a terrifying thing. The fact that she was there, you know there was this one night I went up to her dressing room after her show [On the 20th Century], and I was kind of freaking out a bit about how late scripts were, and the lack of information we had, but we just had such a fun evening and laughed, and laughed, and laughed. At the end of it I said, "Look at this, if we had just done what we've done in the last hour, that would've been great television". So it actually made me really confident about how the show is going to be okay, because the two of us get along well, and have such great camaraderie and chemistry, so it really is good to have someone you know and love to do something like that with, because you know that they've always got your back.
TC: Absolutely! I must say that Reefer Madness is one of my favorite movie musicals. I am just so so happy that Showtime took the risk to create such an obscure kind of different property. Over the years it's gained somewhat of a cult following. I wanted to ask what it was like to make that movie?
AC: It was such fun! I didn't know the musical at all until I was offered the film. It was shot in Vancouver, and I knew so many of the people in it. So it was like just having a real laugh with a lot of your friends. It really was a sort of hilarious, joyous time. I think we all thought that it was amazing that Showtime was making it, but also sort of crazy. I think the way that it's grown and has got this life, and has continued to have this kind of following, and people are very passionate about it, and I think there's actually a move afoot to bring it back as a theatre piece, which I think would be great. It's one of these things that kind of had a slow burn, definitely a slow burn when the play first came out, because it came just around 9/11, and that was a bit of a shame. The movie in the same way, over the years it's developed this very passionate following. I look back on it as one of the most fun things, it was also great for me, I played one of the characters without a million different things popping up, so it was a really fun time.
TC: Do you have any dream roles, anything you have always wanted to do?
AC: No, I don't. I've never been like that. I've never been one to think that. I actually think sometimes when you do that you close yourself off to the possibility of what might be in your presence. So, I very much like to open myself to what might be coming to me, and keep looking out for something exciting and interesting and I go with it, but there's nothing I have in my future that I'm dying to do.
TC: That is a really refreshing perspective.
AC: I am really refreshing! I don't know if you knew that.
TC: This kind of goes along with the last question, so I don't know if you'll really have an answer for it, but do you have anybody that you would just be dying to work on any kind of project with?
AC: Again, it's the same thing as with the roles. You know, there's a lot of people that I admire, but I don't really think it's healthy to start fixating on someone like that. Sometimes there's actual possible things, like if I know someone's making a film or doing a project or that kind of thing, like, "Ooh, I'd really like to be involved with that", but there are actually things I am prognestant of first of all, but in general again, I just feel I find that I'd much rather go out into the world and see what comes to me. Sometimes you work with people that you have admired very greatly, and you can't really have that idea at the time, because they might feel uncomfortable at the way you're coming at them, so I just think I'd much rather just find lots of people and just go, "Wow!" I'd love to work with this person," and I love that feeling, but I don't have a list of people that I think, you know again with the roles I want to do, I don't think it's healthy. I think it's much better to keep your heart open and see what comes to you.
TC: You have found so much success in so many area's of entertainment, you've done television, film, solo acts, theatre, writing, and photography. Each has got to be extremely different to you, but is there one or two that really stick out as, not really a favorite, but just something that you always find yourself going back to?
AC: Actually the way I feel about all of those different things are really the same thing. I feel like when people say, "what do you do", I feel like I'm a performer or a storyteller. I don't feel all of those different things are that different. In each of them all I'm trying to do is tell a story and challenge people. So I think I have a range of things because I'm an eclectic person and I like finding different ways to tell stories, but I go back to all of them really, I do little things here and there, but really they're all the same thing.
TC: Seeing that you have found great success in this business, I wanted to know if you have any advice to any younger up and coming performers that might want to break into this business?
AC: Yes, I do. I always say when I get asked this question, is be yourself. Try and fixate on what you are and who you are, because that's the most important thing about you. Don't be forced into becoming a generic version of yourself or becoming a type. Really when you look at culture, the people that we are most fascinating and interesting are ones who are individuals. So just try to remember that and try to be yourself, be the person that you really are.
TC: I think it's really important for young performers to remember, because there's always that looming feeling that you have got to be this or that or you have to fit a certain mold.
AC: Really just try to be yourself. It's hard but try to hold on to that.
TC: If you could go back in time and give your younger self any advice from what you have learned over the years, what would it be?
AC: Really just don't worry as much, it's all going to be fine. That would be the thing, and just don't be in such a rush. That's really what I would say to myself.
TC: Finally, I wanted to know, as I'm sure many do, what is coming up for you? Can we expect a return to the stage anytime soon?
AC: Yes, but not immediately. I've got a few irons in the fire and things I might do. There's a few projects that I'm doing some workshops on, and I'm waiting to hear about this new television series that I might do next year which was just sold, so you know that would be a fun and interesting role to play. Right now I'm just kind of regrouping and doing my concerts, and doing my book tour, so slightly chilling out a little bit, but that's it really.
TC: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me, and I so look forward to seeing your show!
AC: See you in Louisville!
Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs
Wednesday, November 30 @ 7:30pm
315 W Broadway
Louisville, NY 40202
Tickets start at $40