Ari Shapiro tells the back story of his cabaret show in New Bedford


Ari Shapiro doesn’t seem to fit the mold of a cabaret performer. After all, the NPR journalist is best known as one of the co-hosts of the afternoon news and features radio show “All Things Considered.” He’s reported on breaking news and features from around the world as NPR’s international correspondent based in London. Before that, he was NPR’s White House and justice correspondent.

But for a number of years, Shapiro has also been a singer in Pink Martini, a band from his hometown of Beaverton, Oregon.

You can check out Shapiro’s cabaret chops yourself on June 24, when he teams up with acclaimed actor Alan Cumming in “Och and Oy!,” their national touring show that’s coming to New Bedford’s Zeiterion Performing Arts Center.

Shapiro said in a recent interview that the show is “not tightly scripted. We sing some songs. We tell some stories. We like to keep each other on our toes.”

“We are both storytellers,” he said. “What we do has more in common than we thought.”

Shapiro said storytelling is the heart of everything he does. His book on this theme, “The Best Strangers in the World: Stories from a Life Spent Listening,” came out in March and was an immediate bestseller.

You might know Cumming, a Scottish actor, from such roles as Eli Gold in “The Good Wife” or Broadway roles such as the Master of Ceremonies in “Cabaret.” Along with his Broadway career, he’s been in many films and has produced and directed.

Shapiro, 44, said he met Cumming through a friend who was in “Cabaret.” They found they had enough in common to eventually stage “Och and Oy!,” which they performed for the first time in 2019. Then the show went on hiatus due to COVID, Shapiro said.

Now the show is back on tour when the two can fit it in between other commitments, he said.

Shapiro said he’s looking forward to performing in New Bedford.

“Whether they know me from NPR or Alan Cumming from ‘Good Wife,’ they will see a different side of us in the show,” he said.

And that’s what it’s all about for Shapiro.

“For me, what’s fulfilling is the range of things I do, the range of things we get to learn,” he said.

FRAN OSTENDORF ( is editor of Jewish Rhode Island.

Zeiterion, Ari Shapiro, Alan Cumming