It wasn’t long before Alan Cumming ticked off the things he loves being in Maine – biking, taking a boat ride to the Isles of Shoals and having dinner with his friend and fellow artist Caroline Rhea at his home in the South of the South. Maine.
The Broadway, TV and movie star was also quick – and decisive – to identify what he liked least about Maine.
“My least favorite is answering silly questions about what I like least about Maine. What not to like? Cumming said.
Cumming has spent a lot of time recently, and over the years, finding out what he loves about the state. This summer he spent time in Kennebunkport, performing at Club Cumming on the Coast at the Kennebunkport Inn, a summer edition of his Club Cumming cabaret bar in New York City. He is returning to Maine to perform on Friday at Merrill Auditorium in Portland with National Public Radio’s Ari Shapiro on “Och and Oy!” A Considered Cabaret ”presented by Portland Ovations.
He has been to Maine several times over the years to visit a sister-in-law in Falmouth. And he says he hopes Club Cumming at the Coast will continue for some time, although he has yet to finalize the details. This year, the Cumming Club shows took place on weekends at the Kennebunkport Inn. They started on Memorial Day and are scheduled until October. Cumming has a friend involved with the Kennebunkport Resort hotels, which includes the Inn.
Cumming performed there in July, with Shapiro, but most weeks the shows featured regulars from his Cumming Club in New York City. The series has raised over $ 25,000 for The Actors Fund, which helps artists facing health or financial issues.
Cumming, 56, was born in Scotland but has been well known to the American public for over 20 years. He won a Tony on Broadway as master of ceremonies in a 1998 revival of “Cabaret” and was nominated for three Emmy Awards for his role as political consultant Eli Gold in the 2010 CBS drama “The Good Wife” to 2016. Her film credits include “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion”, “The Anniversary Party” and the “Spy Kids” adventure series. Cumming and Shapiro, host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” began performing together in 2019 with an act that features songs, old and new, and personal stories. Shapiro has been a guest singer of the Pink Martini Jazz / Pop Orchestra for over a decade.
Cumming agreed to answer a few questions via email ahead of his Merrill Auditorium appearance with Shapiro. He responded to some in writing and others by recording his responses and emailing the audio clips to the Press Herald. (Yes, he has a cool Scottish accent.)
Q: How did you team up with Ari Shapiro to play together?
A: Our relationship first started as a radio reporter interviewing an activist performer, TV and film – now we are cabaret co-stars. I realized that our chemistry and unusual combination, along with the fact that Ari has an amazing voice, would make a really good cabaret show.
Q: Can you give us an idea of your show with Ari? What songs could you do? What could you talk about?
A: My show with Ari Shapiro is a cornucopia of songs and stories. It really is a sort of old-fashioned cabaret. It’s me and Ari with a piano – our musical director is called Henry Koperski – and it’s just us talking about how we met, the things we share and how we can seem to be. very different and disparate people, we are actually quite similar. We’re both storytellers, we both love cabaret, and we’re both fascinating queer men. And we got along really well and wanted to take our show on the road and maybe surprise people a little bit.
Q: Why did you want the Kennebunkport Inn to be the location of your summer Cumming club this year?
A: I thought it would be great if Club Cumming brought some spice and mischief to Kennebunkport. We all need a little bit of fun and joy in our lives, so this amalgamation of two seemingly disparate cultures, East Village and Kennebunkport, makes it a truly special experience. I wanted to create a place where people feel safe and comfortable and where they could see things they might not expect to see, maybe broaden their horizons.
Q: Do you think Club Cumming in Maine will be a regular thing?
A: We’re talking about the possibility of Club Cumming coming back and having another presence in Kennebunkport. It was definitely a great experience throughout, I think. So yes, it’s in the cards. We are in discussion, hold the first page.
Q: If you were to live here, what would your idea of a dream home and location be in Maine?
A: In terms of, if I were to stay permanently, my idea of my favorite home, I think it would be living with Caroline Rhea (an actress and comedian who has a home on the south coast of Maine). We went to her house for dinner and had a great time. She’s had a house nearby for ages because she’s Canadian. A lot of Canadians come to Maine because it’s the closest place to the sea or something, she said. Anyway, I think I’d just like to move in with Caroline Rhea.
Q: What did you do while in Maine this summer other than play? Did you have a favorite place or two to visit? Favorite activity?
A: This summer when I visited Kennebunkport I went on a small boat to Star Island in the Isles of Shoals, I had a great day. It was great, I love a little boat trip. We stayed at – where have we stayed yet? – at Hidden Pond (Resort in Kennebunkport), and it was absolutely glorious. I loved to run on my bike. I have come to Maine over the years because my sister in law lives in Falmouth so I have been there often. It was nice to go to Kennebunkport, my first time, and it didn’t disappoint.
Q: You raised a lot of money for the Actors Fund with the Cummings Club shows in Kennebunkport. Why is the cause so dear to you?
A: As someone whose career began working in television, film and theater, the arts play a huge role in my life, both personally and in my businesses. It’s really sad to see so many venues, especially the old venues that have been around for generations, which had to close in the last year. It shows how unstable and precarious a life tries to keep a bar or stage open, especially a queer.
This partnership is more than just an opportunity to recreate this beloved New York destination in Kennebunkport, it is an effort to save our stages by creating new ones. The Cumming on the Coast Club has partnered with The Actors Fund, to support the continuing efforts of the national social service organization to support arts professionals who have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of March 18, 2020, The Actors Fund has provided more than $ 20 million in emergency financial assistance to thousands of people in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
Q: What is your favorite thing about playing Club Cumming, whether in Maine or New York?
A: Berlin cabarets flourished in the Weimar Republic after the First World War, in this boom period after the Spanish flu. This is where the musical “Cabaret” has its origins, and this is what Club Cumming pays homage to in its design and goals. It has been a bastion of equality, fairness and the fight against racism. It’s always fun to bring a show with so much spice to new environments, to push each other out of our comfort zones and to share the Club Cumming spirit, reminding everyone that they are always welcome to our shows.
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