It's easy to love Bebe Neuwirth. We spent some time talking with her recently and posted the complete interview here on Berkshire Fine Arts where I serve as managing editor and critic.
Neuwirth is, of course, the consummate performer and a friend of the LGBTQ Community as well. It takes guts to stand up and demand marriage equality, and she did just that at the Defying Inequality Fund Raiser in New York this past February. Bebe knows what's right and what's not, whether it is politics or show business.
Her upcoming show will be a real treat for people who love the kinds of songs that express our feelings, our emotions and our lives. She and her music director Scott Cady promise an eclectic blend of music, not just the songs she has sung in her Broadway hits. Of course she has included songs by Kander and Ebb from the musical Chicago. Neuwirth received a Tony Award for her performance of Velma Kelly in that show. But there is music by Tom Waits as well, and old film classics like "As Time Goes By". She has also become fond of the songs made famous by Édith Piaf and is a premiere interpreter of the works of Kurt Weill. Neuwirth also plans to sing the music of such landmark composers as Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim. Overall, the evening promises to be both sophisticated and playful, the kind in which you place yourself in the hands of a master.
Many remember her as the character Dr. Lilith Sternin , the emotionally repressed psychiatrist who married Dr. Frasier Crane on the hit television series Cheers. Of course there is also the "Broadway Bebe" Neuwirth, an accomplished dancer and vocalist who has won both critical and popular acclaim for her work on stage. Her Broadway credits include A Chorus Line, Sweet Charity, Damn Yankees and the aforementioned 1996 revival of Chicago, for which she won both a Tony and Drama Desk Award as Best Lead Actress in a Musical for her role as showgirl and killer Velma Kelly.
When we spoke recently, I asked her to tell me how she came to play Anne Coulter on the radio.
So she set the scene. "When Al Franken was on Air America he would do these sort of radio plays, and he decided at one point to have Anne Coulter invited to be on his show. But she would get locked in her dressing room with the heat on," Neuwirth recalled.
Good heavens, Anne Coulter having a meltdown, isn't that special.
"I didn't know if I could do an Anne Coulter impersonation, but he asked me to come in anyway and read her part. So I decided to practice this role, and had to actually listen to her, to get the voice right. They had given me a CD of hers and I would listen and practice."
"But then I would have to turn it off, because at first you start laughing, but then you get furious, and then you get really sad, because you think she's really mentally disturbed. She needs help, because no sane person could say and believe the things she says.
"You wind up thinking this is a very, very toxic person, someone get a doctor!" Oh, my, I responded. "Well don't you think she's cuckoo,?" Bebe asked. I fumbled my response saying she's either cuckoo or she just does it to get everyone buzzing, and doesn't care what people think of her.
"Well, I think that's kind of sick, because what she is buzzing is hate. That's when it becomes a kind of perverted narcissism."
We were both happy that she seems to have lost her grasp on the public's attention now that her kind of politics has been largely discredited.
Turning back to happier subjects. we spoke about her upcoming role as Morticia in a new musical called The Addams Family, based on the New Yorker cartoons by Charles Addams, not the television series. "I'm really excited about this project, it's coming along beautifully. She will share the stage with Nathan Lane as Gomez and a cast of remarkable actors. The new show is slated to debut at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago in the Fall and then go on to Broadway in the Spring of 2010.
So this Saturday is shaping up to be a rare chance to see this great performer do her cabaret show in the intimate setting of the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, MA. Fort icket information call the box office at 413.528.0100 or visit their website, www.mahaiwe.org. Tickets are $55 or $80 for the Golden Circle seats. It's going to be an unforgettable evening.