Alan Cumming on sappy songs and 'The Good Wife' ending

NEW YORK -- The coolest place to be on Broadway last year was inside the Studio 54 theatre. To be more specific, it was in Alan Cumming's dressing room there.

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That's where guests after "Cabaret" would go backstage to mingle and dance as Cumming played DJ. Those impromptu nights led to the concert series "Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs" at the elegant Cafe Carlyle last summer, a live CD of the concert and now a mini tour.

Onstage, "The Good Wife" star tells stories and illustrates them with tunes such as Billy Joel's "Goodnight Saigon," Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" and Stephen Sondheim's "Ladies Who Lunch."

He plays Bethesda, Maryland, on Valentine's Day; Naples, Florida, on Feb. 28; Detroit on March 19; Minneapolis on March 26; Princeton, New Jersey, on May 13; Port Washington, New York, on May 14, Dallas on June 24; Austin, Texas on June 25; and San Antonio, Texas, on June 26.

The Associated Press caught up with the Scotsman to ask how he took the news of the end of "The Good Wife," why he chose the songs on the new album and why he's not afraid of the unknown now.

AP: Did you pick songs we secretly love but never admit to?

Cumming: No, it's not about guilty pleasures, to be cool or anti-cool. It's really the songs that I connect with in an emotional way. Some of the songs I was a little judge-y initially and then I realized it's because people here want to know what to think of it first before they actually experience it. I find that applies to music a lot.

AP: We are kind of obsessed with labels, aren't we?

Cumming: I'd put on songs and people would be dancing and saying, "Who is this?" And I'd say, "Well, why don't you see if you like it first and enjoy it rather than having to know what it is before you make a judgment about whether you're allowed to enjoy it?" Music should be a primal experience rather than an intellectual one.

AP: You introduce each song with a story of your own, like the passionate relationship you were in years ago that segues into the Avril Lavigne song "Complicated."

Cumming: I like the fact that when I start singing the songs, people are connecting with the song and they are also associating my experience I just shared with them. I like that sort of layered thing.

AP: Is the racy cover of the album, with you and two dancers completely nude outside the Carlyle, a real photo or a clever editing job?

Cumming: It's real. We were literally naked on the street at 2 o'clock in the morning. It was very, very quick. Luckily nobody's up past 10 o'clock on the Upper East Side so it was kind of empty.

AP: Which came first, the picture or the album?

Cumming: The photo. When we were talking of doing the live album, I thought, 'Wow, if we could do it at the Carlyle, we could use that as the cover.' So in some way the whole reason for doing the recording at the Carlyle was so I could have that picture on the cover. It was a very elaborate way to do it.

AP: We were surprised to learn "The Good Wife" was ending. Were you?

Cumming: I wasn't surprised. I was actually leaving anyway. I wasn't going to do another season. I'm sorry the show is coming to an end and the news was jarring, but I think it's great that the showrunners, Robert and Michelle King, have a chance to finish it the way they want to. The Kings were leaving as well. That's why I was going to leave -- the Kings were leaving. Now they can close the story.

AP: The musical "Cabaret" ended its yealong run last year and now "The Good Wife" ends. Do you feel like you're now free?

Cumming: It feels like a new phase, definitely. What's interesting is six years ago when I started "The Good Wife," I really wanted to get a job on a TV show in New York because I was so fed up of travelling all over the world. I just wanted to get home for a bit and have some job security and stability in my life. And now I think I'm ready to go back to that again. So, in a way, I'm going back to the unknown.



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