Alan Cumming talks ‘sappy’ songs, politics and Eli Gold

Alan Cumming at Carnegie Hall. He'll bring his cabaret show to Atlanta on March 3. Photo: Tré.

Alan Cumming at Carnegie Hall. He’ll bring his cabaret show to Atlanta on March 3. Photo: Tré.

From the slithery Emcee onstage in “Cabaret” to the buttoned-up fussbudget Eli Gold on “The Good Wife,” the range of Alan Cumming is dazzling.

The Scottish-born multi-hyphenate has nabbed a Tony and an Olivier Award, been nominated for numerous Emmys and Screen Actors Guild Awards, popped up in “X2: X-Men United” and the “Spy Kids” trilogy and written several books, including last fall’s “You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams: My Life in Stories and Pictures.”

Aside from his acting plaudits, there is also his music career. In 2009, he released his first album, “I Bought a Blue Car Today.”

Zip ahead to his sophomore effort, “Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs – Live at The Café Carlyle,” released last year. His fun, warm, campy presentation of songs that have deep meaning in his life – pop, Broadway, standards – has spawned an ongoing series of live shows, one he will perform on March 3 at Atlanta Symphony Hall with a trio of musicians.

Calling recently from New York, where he was on his way to a wardrobe fitting for the CBS pilot “Killer Instinct” (he’ll play a CIA operative-turned-professor who returns to service), the candid and witty Cumming talked about the evolution of his show and if we’ll ever see Eli Gold again.

Q: Since you debuted the show at Café Carlyle, what has changed about it?

A: It’s gotten more sort of solid and intense. It’s gotten more “more.” I’ve gotten better because of the band. We breathe together in a really good way. I’ve honed the stories; it’s just a more pure version. I was so nervous at the start, but I’m also really aware of the shape of the whole show. It’s just such fun to do. I’ve done it so many times and can drop some new things here and there.

Q: You’re singing “sappy” songs, but “sappy” doesn’t really mean the same thing here as it does in the UK. How do you really define it?

A: Sappy to me means – “you big sap.” It’s sort of implies that you’re going to get moved by it. My brother used to make me cry when he started singing “Danny Boy.” Something about that song moves me and gets me. What I mean by sappy is that the core structure or sentiment about the song just moves you emotionally. And in America, I think, sappy can also be a little cheesy.

Alan Cumming said he will likely retire this show in May. Photo: Tré.

Alan Cumming said he will likely retire this show in May. Photo: Tré.

Q: You include songs from Keane to Miley Cyrus to Elaine Stritch – that’s some pretty eclectic taste. What are some of your earliest musical memories?

A: I didn’t have lots of people telling me what was cool and what was not. I grew up in a remote area (of Scotland), so when I teenager I was a Kate Bush nut. I’ve always been open to different things. What I love about the show is saying to people, I know you’re going to scoff at this song because you think it’s uncool, like “The Climb” – but listen to it again. Just open your heart and mind. I tear it all down (musically), and that’s what I like. The cello is a beautiful instrument. My whole show is about connecting, I feel it’s about being honest and open, and that’s everything I stand for, and the need for joy.

Q: You’ve been outspoken on Twitter about our current political climate. Have you worked any political commentary into the show?

A: I used to do more before the election and I’ve been reading this letter (sent by a fan) about Trump in the style of (British poet) Robert Burns. I haven’t changed the show radically. I think I’d rather do it in a natural way. Being an immigrant myself, the whole idea has been hijacked, to see the sea change in how you’re perceived.

Q: Might we see Eli Gold on (the new “Good Wife” spinoff) “The Good Fight”?

A: It’s not in the plans. They’re only doing about 10 episodes and I think they might be finished (with Season 1). But who knows? Life is long!


CONCERT PREVIEW

ALAN CUMMING

8 p.m. March 3. $39.50-$125.50. Atlanta Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, http://www.ticketmaster.com.


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