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Alan Cumming. Photo courtesy Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center

REVIEW: Alan Cumming’s ‘Legal Immigrant’ at the Mahaiwe bold and smart

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By Monday, Jul 16, 2018 Arts & Entertainment

Film, stage and television actor and Scottish born and bred Alan Cumming claimed the title of “entertainer extraordinaire” in a bold, smart performance to an enthusiastic, sold-out house at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington Sunday night. Cumming calls his show “Legal Immigrant,” both in celebration of his own relatively new U.S. citizenship and emotional support of immigrants to the U.S., but it was so much more. The 90-minute show was packed with about a dozen and half songs, thematically grouped in five sets with some rollicking comedy routines and brash, political commentary in between. Unapologetically and proudly anti-Trump, Cumming introduced his excellent four-member band by their ethnic origins and nationalities, reminding us we are a country of immigrants.

Cumming peppered his act with delicious one-liners (stripping off his white suit jacket after the opening set to reveal a black lace sleeveless top, he quipped, “I do believe in the right to bare arms”); whimsical gay camp (selecting hunky lifeguards for his 50th birthday party at Walt Disney World’s water park); celebrity imitations (an okay Liza Minnelli but a spot-on Sean Connery); and an outrageous rift on “scrotal aging,” which sets the stage for some serious songs about growing old, things past, and love had and love lost.

Cumming’s sensitivity is agenderous. When’s the last time we’ve heard Sondheim’s torch song from “Follies”—“Losing My Mind”—sung by a guy? He covered divas old and new, from Peggy Lee (his bold, muscular version of “Is That All There Is” was one of the show’s best), Marlene Dietrich (yes, her signature “Falling in Love Again”) and Edith Piaf to Adele and P!nk. He reminisced candidly about a lonely, misfit childhood in rural Scotland and segued into bittersweet reconciliation with “Caledonia.”  Besides Sondheim, Cumming borrowed from Broadway and film with a unique mix of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alan Menken (one of the kids’ favorites from “The Little Mermaid”).

He concluded with a lovely original song about the power of now, written for him by pianist and musical director Lance Horne. Cumming left the audience upbeat with an encore of “Tomorrow” from “Annie.” Cumming transcended the standard’s usual treacle, rendering it an adult realist’s anthem of hope—things will get better. Ya gotta believe in somethin’.

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