Bringing Up Bebe (Neuwirth, That Is)
Bebe Neuwirth wants you to know that she won’t be singing “All That Jazz” this time. The Tony- and Emmy-winning actor says her new show won’t be a list of her most well-known songs from her stage career, including numbers from Sweet Charity and Chicago.
Instead, the actor — perhaps best known for her TV roles in Madame Secretary and as Lilith Sternin in Cheers and Frasier — will be in storyteller mode. Her new show — Stories and Songs with Piano with accompanist Scott Cady —will feature a collection of musical tales with strong narratives and compelling characters at the core. The show will play the Ridgefield Playhouse Nov. 10.
The revue will include songs from an earlier tribute show to composer Kurt Weill, some Tom Waits, a little Edith Piaf, some Sondheim and even a story-song from the Chicago composing team of John Kander and Fred Ebb (“Ring Those Bells”).
On the legendary run of that revival — still playing on Broadway after 22 years — she says she knew it was something special from its first incarnation as a one-week run as part of the Broadway Encores! concert series.
“It was the music,” she says when I ask about the show’s staying power in a telephone interview from New York. “The audience knew the songs so well.” Neuwirth adds that it also reintroduced the dazzling choreography of Bob Fosse, “who was way ahead of his time.”
The public can now fully appreciate the irony of the cynical show, she says, “especially in the face of what’s happening now. The world is now a vaudeville show.”
Neuwirth also praised producers Fran and Barry Weissler for keeping the show fresh for more than 9,000 performances. “They’ve been brilliant in their ability to keep it going while still respecting the show.”