Alan Cumming – the acclaimed actor, Broadway and cabaret icon, author and activist – has been named the Adelaide Cabaret Festival’s artistic director for 2021.

It’s a huge coup. The Scottish-born, New York-based star will be the first international artistic director in the festival’s history. But it won’t be his first time at the event. In 2017, he performed two sold-out performances of Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs, a show about his “life as a Scottish man living in the USA in a same-sex marriage”. He also toured the show to Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane.

“I thought, if I’m going to do another show like this, I want to really take it up a notch and sing emotional songs and be very vulnerable and intense and pathetic and just do it,” Cumming told Broadsheet at the time. “The best kinds of performance are the ones where you are completely connected with the performer and you feel that they are showing what’s inside of them, and so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

His appointment was announced over the weekend on the final night of this year’s digital-only festival, Bite-Sized and Home Delivered – which replaced the cancelled 2020 program and closed the two-year tenure of artistic director Julia Zemiro.

“I first came to Adelaide over 30 years ago and have always loved the welcome I've received there. And of course cabaret, with a big and small c, has always been very close to my heart,” Cumming said in a press release. “So to be asked to come and curate Adelaide Cabaret Festival after this missing year, to be able to bring together the most vibrant of the world’s cabaret performers, to ask them to entertain us, provoke us, make sense of the maelstrom we’re living through, and most of all remind us why cabaret is such a vital form of connection between performer and audience – well, it doesn’t get much better! And apparently you have some nice wine too!”

The multi-talented performer has won a Tony Award for his part in the Broadway show Cabaret and received multiple Golden Globe, Emmy and SAG nominations for his role as Eli Gold on The Good Wife. He’s also received over 40 awards for his social activism and was made an Officer of the British Empire for his contributions to the arts and LGBTQIA+ equality.

He also owns the New York cabaret bar Club Cumming, and appeared as himself in an episode in the final season of Broad City.

The 2021 Adelaide Cabaret Festival will run from June 11 to 26 at the Adelaide Festival Centre.

adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au