Bebe Neuwirth’s performance at the Bardavon on Saturday, March 3 is being billed as “Bebe Neuwirth in Songs with Piano.” But the Tony and Emmy Award-winning singer, dancer and actor – she recently starred as Morticia in The Addams Family on Broadway and played Lilith in Cheers and Frasier on TV – characterized the songs that she will be singing as much more than a nice collection of tunes. “They cover a range of different situations in people’s lives,” she said in a recent phone interview. “They’re very rich and deep and contain a great depth of emotion, which could be elation and joy, or heartbreak, or nostalgia and longing. In all of them, the lyrics enhance the music and vice versa.”
Neuwirth added that she doesn’t so much sing the songs as inhabit them: “They really take me with them. This won’t be some girl standing on the stage at a microphone.” She will be accompanied by Scott Cady on the piano; she refers to him as her “musical partner,” given his accomplished artistry. The selection will be wide-ranging, from Edith Piaf to Kurt Weill to Tom Waits to Stephen Sondheim. The Weill songs in particular might surprise people who associate the German songsmith with a certain hard edge: “I find them soulful and romantic and lyrical,” commented Neuwirth.
She first launched her “Songs with Piano” show four years ago – it has been brought back to the stage, with a fresh selection, after a long hiatus – and has performed it in a variety of venues, from a little boîte to a 2,000-seat theater. There really is no difference, when it comes to the emotional intensity of her performance: “These songs can inhabit all these venues.”
Neuwirth also just released her first solo album, Bebe Neuwirth Porcelain, a title that hints at the dichotomy of fragility and strength exemplified by many of the songs. The album will for sale at the Bardavon. The New York-based performer has also been busy with other projects: She just finished shooting an episode for The Good Wife, and next week she starts rehearsals for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in a production by the Classic Stage Company, in the East Village. The play will premiere at the end of March.
Neuwirth has performed in numerous Broadway shows, including Chicago – for which she won three awards, including a Tony – Sweet Charity, Fosse, Damn Yankees and A Chorus Line. She is an honorary Ziegfeld Girl who has also played the lead in many regional theater productions and appeared in Liberty Heights, Summer of Sam, Bugsy and other films. She was nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Dorothy Parker in the television film Dash and Lily, and had guest appearances on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Does she have a favorite role? “You always have to fall in love with every job you do, or convince yourself that you are, because it’s not fair to the audience otherwise,” she said. “In some roles I find aspects of myself; some are nothing like me; and some are like me in a way the audience isn’t aware of.” What about Morticia? “There’s nothing of myself in her, although there are things in her I aspire to. She has an elegance and a great calm and composure. I’ve had moments of elegance.”
Her show at the Bardavon starts at 8 pm. Tickets go for $50 general admission, $45 for members and $65 for Gold Circle. To reserve, contact the Bardavon box office at (845) 473-2071.