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Cumming, Alan (b. 1965)  
 
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While Hamlet was still in production, Cumming began rehearsals for a London revival of Cabaret (book by Joe Masteroff, based on Isherwood's Berlin Stories; music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb). In a 1987 production he had played a minor role. But in the 1993-1994 West End production, he had a leading role as the Emcee and earned another Olivier Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical.

Cumming reprised his role as the Emcee in Cabaret on Broadway in 1998-1999. The New York production was a smash hit, and Cumming earned numerous honors for his performance, including the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Theatre World, and New York Public Advocate's Awards.

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Cumming's success in Cabaret led to the opportunity to star in a New York production of Sir Noël Coward's Design for Living, a play that he had long wanted to do. Critic Elysa Gardner praised Cumming's 2001 performance, writing that he "imbues Otto with a delightful mix of impishness and innocence."

The following year, also in New York, he appeared in Elle, a short play by Jean Genet. The work had never been performed in English, and so Cumming wrote an adaptation based on a translation by Terri Gordon.

The simple premise of the play is that a young photographer is trying to take a perfect picture of the Pope for worldwide distribution. As New York Times critic Ben Brantley noted, however, "'Elle' is a dense, ornately verbal meditation on the tyranny of fame and manufactured images of glamour and authority."

The French feminine pronoun, elle, actually refers to the Pope since his title, Sa Sainteté ("His Holiness"), is a feminine noun; thus, the Pope is called "she."

Cumming gave a flamboyant performance as the pontiff. Brantley described his entrance as one "which for audacity and spectacle is unlikely to be topped . . . even by touring rock stars" with its special effects and Cumming's designer dress "that makes the most lavish Oscar-night gowns look modest." The reviewer went on to say that Cumming brought "miraculous new variety to the premise of the actor as war-weary whore that he perfected in 'Cabaret.'"

In addition to his work on stage, Cuming has appeared in dozens of films, in which he has shown remarkable versatility as an actor. His movies include light-hearted fare such as the three Spy Kids films (2001, 2002, and 2003, all directed by Robert Rodriguez) and the animated feature Garfield (2004, directed by Peter Hewitt), for which he did voice-overs. He has also appeared in adaptations of the works of Shakespeare--Titus (1999, directed by Julie Taymor), Charles Dickens--Nicholas Nickleby (2002, directed by Douglas McGrath), and Patricia Highsmith--Ripley Under Ground (2005, directed by Roger Spottiswoode).

With Jennifer Jason Leigh, who played Sally Bowles to his Emcee in the New York production of Cabaret, Cumming has co-written and co-directed a film, The Anniversary Party (2001). The two co-starred with a cast that included Gwyneth Paltrow (with whom Cumming had worked in Emma), Phoebe Cates, and John C. Reilly. The low-budget film, which was shot on digital video in only 19 days, was not a great commercial success but received favorable reviews. Critic Eric Harrison called it a "nicely acted and appealing drama" with "sterling performances" from the "marvelous cast."

Among Cumming's recent film projects are Lorena Machado's Bam Bam and Celeste (2005), starring Margaret Cho, and Sara Sugarman's Coming Out (completed in 2008, but not yet released), in which Cumming will play a gay cabaret performer who takes charge of a hapless Welsh rugby team after the death of his father, its coach. Cumming has also appeared on television in the lesbian soap opera, The L Word.

In 2009, he served as host of the PBS "Masterpiece Mystery" series.

Cumming is the author of a novel, Tommy's Tale (2002), about a bisexual man who, as he approaches his thirtieth birthday, is both enjoying a freewheeling party scene and yearning for a more settled life as a father. The book received polite but unenthusiastic reviews.

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