Actress Bebe Neuwirth performs with the MSO
When people look at actress Bebe Neuwirth, they see her infamous character Lilith Sternin, the rigid yet lovable wife of Frasier Crane, a part she played to perfection for seven years on "Cheers" and later reprised on "Frasier." It has become an almost unavoidable association.
And though she says she loved her character and her time doing "Cheers," Neuwirth admits that she never really felt completely comfortable doing television sitcoms. Her true calling as a performer, she says, is on the stage.
Dancing and singing her whole life, Neuwirth graduated from pre-teen ballerina to Broadway sensation when she first hit the big time in "A Chorus Line" in 1980. Never looking back, she went on to star as Velma in the Broadway production of "Chicago" and Nickie in "Sweet Charity," securing a Tony Award for both performances.
On Friday, May 5, Bebe Neuwirth performs with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the Milwaukee Theater. OMC caught up with the Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress to chat about her one-night only performance and her connection to Milwaukee.
OMC: Doing TV and doing Broadway must be dramatically different experiences. Is there one you identify with more personally?
B.N.: I've been dancing all my life; that's really where my heart is. The work I did on TV was sort of an offshoot -- it just happened by chance, not by design. Thankfully it took off and I had a great career, but it definitely wasn't something I initially set out to do.
OMC: Was doing TV a challenge for you?
B.N.: Well, it was a really great job. I liked my character, I liked working with Kelsey (Grammer), but I didn't particularly feel comfortable in that medium. I think I am least comfortable doing sitcoms, and slightly more comfortable doing single camera work, like what I was doing on "Law and Order." It's complicated and confusing to explain, but sitcoms are a different animal and the people who enjoy that kind of work are a different animal. I'm just not that animal.
OMC: What can you tell me about your upcoming Milwaukee performance?
B.N.: The concert will be eight pieces by Kurt Weill and 12 by John Kander and Fred Ebb. They are all mixed together, not separated by acts, and that makes good musical and emotional sense to me. I love all the songs that I sing. What appeals to me is that they are all beautiful songs because they all tell the truth. Whether the song is sad, funny, sexy or fun to sing, they all tell the truth.
OMC: Have you ever performed in Milwaukee before?
B.N.: The last time I performed in Milwaukee was probably in 1980 with "A Chorus Line," but I have been there several times and have had a great time. I actually really, really love Milwaukee -- it's one of my favorite cities. I adopted my cat Frankie from the Milwaukee County Zoo and she traveled on the road with me for two years. I also shot "The Paint Job," which is a film that nobody has seen, in Kenosha in 1991. I really enjoyed Kenosha and I remember making the trek up to Milwaukee along the lake -- it's such a beautiful area.
Tickets for Neuwirth's performance are on sale now at The Milwaukee Theatre Box Office, Ticketmaster Centers and online at ticketmaster.com. Tickets are not sold via the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Box Office. The Milwaukee Theatre Box Office is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
John said: Although, I think it was 1978 or 79, I was there, too...but it was the touring production in the big theatre at the PAC--the one where the symphony would perform. What was odd was Bebe played Sheila, the thirty-something chorus veteran...and Bebe was about 20 at the time.
B B Kradwell said: I think I saw Bebe at the Melody Top Theatre in 1980, performing in A Chorus Line! Man, I miss that theatre!
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