30 Seconds With… Bebe Neuwirth

In this weekly feature, WCBS culture critic Jim Taylor shares 30 seconds with the theatre stars and upstarts of NYC. From Broadway to Off-off, Jim tracks down the talent and gets them to spill just enough for our collectively shortened attention spans.

We first got to know the multi-talented Bebe Neuwirth as the ice queen Lilith on television’s Cheers and Fraser. Two Emmys later, we got to know her as a Broadway star, nabbing Tony awards for her performances in Sweet Charity and Chicago. Nobody can dance Charity or Velma like Bebe. And she shined in A Chorus Line, Little Me, Damn Yankees, and even The Addams Family. You can get to know her as a cabaret singer this week at 54 Below. A smallish stage, Neuwirth fills it with the songs of Kurt Weill, Tom Waits, and Broadway. But we’ve gotta see her dance.

Jim Taylor: Will you dance much in the show?

Bebe Neuwirth: I’m not dancing full out on the stage, but I do wiggle and I do move around a bit. I cannot not wiggle.

JT: We’re chatting in the comfortable confines of 54 Below. It’s an opulent throwback, a gilded speakeasy that’s become the cabaret home of Broadway stars.

BN: It’s a beautiful room. It’s created by people of the theatre, designed by people of the theatre, and I feel that. You know I’ve been rehearsing today and there is a kind of vibe here that just feels like home. I’m a theatre rat and I feel like I’m on the right ship here.

JT: And your cabaret show?

BN: I love it. I only do songs I love. I love them for all different kinds of reasons. Some of them I just think are fantastic songs. I really enjoy embodying the characters that come through. Some of them have a story to tell that I think is a beautiful story. Some of them are very personal. I don’t want to say too much because I want the audience to have their own experience of it. I don’t want to tell them ever what to think about something. If it resonates for them, I am very happy to have that happen.

JT: And the future for Bebe Neuwirth?

BN: It is wide open, and I’m very very curious to see what’s going to happen. I shot a pilot in Los Angeles during February that I am very excited about, and am waiting to hear if it gets picked up or not. Who knows? There is just no way of knowing in this business.

Bebe Neuwirth is in the midst of a week-long run at 54 Below, which, as the name suggests, is right beneath the fabled Studio 54. As Bebe sang in All That Jazz: the gin is cold and the piano is hot.