Alan Cumming and Ari Shapiro Charm take center stage

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Willkommen, welcome, welcome…

These opening words and accompanying melody in John Kander and Fred Ebb’s 1966 musical “Cabaret” promise an entrance into debauchery, danger, politics and sex at the heart of the Kit Kat Club and its multilingual master of ceremonies. March 29andat the Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, a solo pianist played this melody, heralding the entry of an icon.

Alan Cumming emerged from the stage left in an immaculate three-piece suit, evoking all the gravitas and magnetism of his signature role, Joel Gray’s radically bisexual reimagining of the emcee. From stage right came his cohort, his partner in crime: Ari Shapiro of NPR’s “All Things Considered” fame, in matching uniform.

As the applause plunged into the hazy room, the duo launched into a medley, showing off famed journalist Shapiro’s secret second talent as a singer and inviting the audience into the dynamic of self-proclaimed “bosom buddies,” leaping between shameless flattery and lightness. incentive contest:

ARI: I can’t believe I’m sharing the stage with you, it’s so surreal, I’ve been a fan of yours all my life. Ever since I was this big, I’ve been watching you on TV and in movies-

ALAN: So you grew up watching me, is that what you’re saying?

ARI: Since I was wearing diapers.

ALAN: Well, you know what Ari Shapiro is? You’ll probably look at me again the next time you’re in diapers, because I’ll still be working honey!

As the medley shifted to a rendition of “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)”, comparing their singing talent and their higher education, it was clear that all competition was unnecessary: ​​they had no nothing to prove to the public.

This stopover in Atlanta was among the last of their joint tour entitled “Och & Oy! A Considered Cabaret” (named after Cumming and Shapiro’s respective Scottish and Jewish origins), originally beginning in 2019 and continuing this year. The “Considered Cabaret” refers less to Kander and Ebb than to the structure of these performances. A cabaret combines various disciplines – such as song, dance, acting, or recitation – and merges them into a theatrical performance often aimed at adults; and in practice here unites an odd couple of entertainment for a night full of jokes songs and stories.

As Shapiro explained, after finishing the first number, “We wanted to give the kind of deep, thought-provoking conversation you might expect to hear on public radio, along with the slightly bawdy, entertaining song and dance numbers. you’d expect from an Alan Cumming show.

Although their differences in profession and history are apparent, much has been done to illustrate the similarities between the two, from brief stints in each other’s chosen professions (Cumming was a journalist before his career as a actor takes off, and Shapiro has been a regular guest singer with the band Pink Martini) as well as sharing their respective stories of coming out as queer men, transitioning between the hilarious and the heartfelt in equal measure .

Amid the conversation and rejoicing, the draw of the show was the chemistry between two friends, sharing stories as if the audience were seated at their dinner parties, who nonetheless are accomplished entertainers who never forget to perform in front of the crowd.

The tour’s serious ambition, in design and particularly in dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has often led to shows being delayed or indefinitely postponed for the couple, was made clear when Shapiro sang in solo cover of Bette Midler’s song “Laughing”. Matters”, with the refrain:

“The ticking time bombs are ticking,

People keep getting sick.

And a nickel ain’t worth a dime,

Wickedness and greed abound.

Just as peace gains ground, it breaks.

Hatred is here to stay.

“You know, this song was written in the early 90s, and I didn’t change a single word in it,” Shapiro said. “This song was written before 9/11, before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, before the global financial collapse, before the insurgency, before the pandemic.”

The song ends with the plea, “Keep your humor up please, because you don’t know in times like these that laughter counts above all else”, and with the conviction of his delivery, he seemed that Shapiro meant this plea as much to himself and Cumming as he did to the audience.

The show ended with a spectacle as Cumming, Shapiro and their piano player ripped off their coats to reveal sleeveless dress shirts, Shapiro donning a dog collar and the crowd descending in gasped cheers and laughter.

Alan Cumming and Ari Shapiro’s Tour Continues in New Jersey on April 24and.


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