Broadway

Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming in front of a camera

As a performer for Broadway and West End, Cumming won Tony and every other award available in the process. He’s a versatile and talented performer with a great sense of humor. He received traditional acting training for theater, but he moved effortlessly from Shakespeare to Cabaret, to X-Men, to The Good Wife TV series. His bold choice of roles and his openness about his gay identity has brought him a loyal and varied audience and fans.

Cumming appeared in various films and television programs, recorded multiple albums, and toured the world with his cabaret shows. He also received more than forty awards for his social activism and humanitarianism.

Early Life

Alan Cumming (January 27, 1965) was born in Perthshire, Scotland. He grew up in a home on a large estate property where his father, Alex, worked as a forester. His mother, Mary Darling, was a secretary at an insurance company.

His childhood life was a drama of its own. Cumming described the environment as feudal. In his autobiography Not My Father’s Son, he describes the physical and emotional violence his father has inflicted on him and his brother in his childhood. His mother wasn’t able to divorce his father until she was financially independent. He became estranged from his father since his early twenties and did not speak to him again until just before the filming of his episode of Who Do You Think You Are?. He found that his father did not believe he was his biological son. Later, Cumming took DNA tests with his brother to prove that they are indeed his biological children.

According to Cumming, this difficult upbringing had taught him to act as he suppressed his own emotions and feelings around his father when he was a little boy.

Theatre Career

Cumming began his theatre career in Scotland, performing with the Royal Lyceum Edinburgh, The Tron Glasgow, Dundee Rep, and tours with Borderline, Glasgow Citizens’ TAG, and Theatre Workshop. He appeared in the production of Conquest of the South Pole (1988), where he was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for the best newcomer in a play. In 1991, he played the Madman in the Accidental Death of an Anarchist, for which he won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Comedy Performance. In 1993, Cumming appeared in La Bête at the Lyric, Hammersmith, London, where he was nominated for an Olivier Award.

Cumming also appeared in major productions in the early 90s. He played the role of The Master of Ceremonies in the 1993 revival of the musical Cabaret in London’s West End and received another Olivier Award nomination for Best Actor in a musical. He reprised the role in 1998 for a Broadway revival, where he won a Tony Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, and a Drama Desk Award for his performance. He also won a FANY Award and a Theatre World Award for an outstanding Broadway debut.

In 1993, Cumming also received great critical acclaim for playing the title role in Hamlet, playing opposite his then-wife Hilary Lyon. He won a Theatre Management Association Award and got nominated for a Shakespeare Globe Award for his performance.

After a successful Broadway debut in 1998 in Cabaret, Cumming played other stage roles in the United States, including the 2001 production of Design of Living, and the 2006 production of The Threepenny Opera, where he appeared opposite Cyndi Lauper. In 2008, Cumming appeared in the Classic Stage Company’s production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, performing alongside Dianne Wiest.

In 2006, Cumming returned to West End to play the lead role in Bent, a play about homosexuals in Germany under the captivity of the Nazis. The year after that, he took the lead role in the production of The Bacchae, where he won a Herald Archangel Award.

Cumming returned to Scotland in 2012 to play all the roles in Macbeth, winning him two AudioFile Awards. He brought the production on Broadway the next year at the New York’s Lincoln Center and the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. Macbeth concluded its Broadway run in July 2013.

In 2014, Cumming performed in a Broadway production of Cabaret –a Roundabout Theater Company’s revival of the production, starring opposite Michele Williams. The production closed in March 2015. He was nominated for a Drama League Award for his performance. In 2020, he appeared in Endgame co-starring with Daniel Radcliffe.

Television Career

Besides Broadway, Cumming was well known for his TV appearances. His breakthrough role was playing Bernard Bottle in the Christmas BBC comedy Bernard and the Genie in 1991, starring alongside Rowan Atkinson and Lenny Henry. He also appeared in a 1993 comic relief sketch on the popular UK TV show Blind Date with Atkinson, playing Mr. Bean. In 1995, he starred as the flight attendant Sebastian Flight in the BBC2 sitcom The High Life, a series he wrote by himself and co-star Forbes Masson.

In 2011, Cumming returned to British TV to star as Desrae on the Sky series The Runaway. He also made documentaries, such as My Brilliant BritainThe Real Cabaret, and BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? In 2018, he played King James on Doctor Who.

Cumming was also busy with CBS in the United States, as he played Eli Gold on the popular TV show The Good Wife. He appeared as a guest star in the first season and became a regular in the 2010 to 2011 season. He was nominated for an Emmy Award and an International Press Academy Award in 2010 and got nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and an Emmy again in 2011.

In 2016, Cumming visited Scotland for a special episode for NBC’s First Look travel program. The episode featured the areas of the country special to him, showcasing Scotland through his eyes. The program was awarded Best Lifetime Program at the New York Emmy Awards.

Theatre Awards

  • Comedy Performance of the Year, Laurence Olivier Award (1991) – Accidental Death of an Anarchist
  • Best Actor, Theatre Management Association Award (1994) – Hamlet
  • Best Actor in a Musical, FANY Award (1998) – Cabaret
  • Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, Tony Award (1998) – Cabaret
  • Best Actor in a Musical, Outer Critics Circle Award (1998) – Cabaret
  • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical, Drama Desk Award (1998) – Cabaret
  • Outstanding Broadway Debut, Theatre World Award (1998) – Cabaret
  • Herald Archangel Award (2007) – The Bacchae
  • Best Voice of the Year, AudioFile Awards (2012) – Macbeth
  • Earphone Award, AudioFile Awards (2012) – Macbeth
  • Favorite Actor in a Play, Broadway.com Audience Choice (2013) – Macbethon Broadway

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