Alan Cumming brings his set of “sappy songs” to Strathmore on Valentine’s Day. (Steve Vaccariello)

The show is called “Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs.” But if Cumming wasn’t going to be performing at Strathmore on Valentine’s Day, he and his husband would be celebrating in a decidedly un-sappy way: by staying in.

“We actually kind of hate Valentine’s Day because you can never get a table. And if you do, then the couples next to you are always fighting,” says the actor-singer. “I’d probably stay at home and cook something.”

Besides, Cumming says, why should we take just one day to shower attention on the person we love?

“It’s a kind of horrible notion,” he says in his Scottish brogue. “Why can’t you be nice all the time? It sounds slightly fascist to me, being told what to think at certain times. So Valentine’s Day is like the lovey-dovey expression to fascism. So I don’t really buy into it.”

Good thing he’ll be spending the evening with us, then. The cheeky actor, known for his Tony Award-winning turn as the Emcee in the musical revivals of “Cabaret” and as Eli Gold on the CBS show “The Good Wife,” is on a quest to change hearts and minds when it comes to music about that mushy stuff.

“I think sentiment is something that sometimes gets a bad rap,” he says.

So Cumming has pulled together a set of sentimental songs, but from a wide range of artists — Annie Lennox, Avril Lavigne, Rufus Wainwright, Kander and Ebb and Stephen Sondheim, among others. Cumming’s criteria were songs he connected with personally and felt he could “change for you as the listener, and maybe make you see it in a different way.” Last week, he released an album of his performance at New York’s Cafe Carlyle.

“Sappy” might not be the first word you think of upon hearing some of the songs in the show. For example, he performs a jingle for a condom commercial he did with Ricki Lake (“With Ecstasy / we will be / flirty and dirty as we can be”). He also does Sondheim’s gin-and-rage-soaked “The Ladies Who Lunch.” But many of Cumming’s selections are sticky sweet, like “The Climb,” a song from Miley Cyrus before her provocateur phase — a choice that came from his second turn in “Cabaret,” when he would host parties in his dressing room, which he called “Club Cumming.”

“I’d play all this different music and some of the songs in the [‘Sappy Songs’] show I grew to love during that year,” he says. “They were songs I never thought I would like, and I was a bit prejudiced against them I suppose, so it’s about me saying, ‘I’ve opened my heart to this song.’ ”

And part of the fun for Cumming is watching people’s faces as he sings something unexpected, such as Lavigne’s 2002 anthem to teen relationship angst, “Complicated.”

“I like the arc of what happens,” he says. “They’re kind of surprised, and then I can see them sort of going, ‘Oh, he’s totally going for this, he’s not mocking it, this is not a joke.’ And then I’m into the song and they’re into it, too, they’re reminded of how much they like the song, and why they connected with it.”

Watching that reaction and the connection people have with the show is enough to make Cumming feel, well, rather sentimental. He considers himself to be “quite sappy.”

“My heart’s on my sleeve, I suppose,” he says. “It’s good, it means you’re alive.”

If you go
Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs

The Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane,
North Bethesda. 301-581-5100. www.strathmore.org.

Dates: Sunday at 8 p.m.

Prices: $35-$85.