On Saturday February 23, triple-threat actress/singer/dancer Bebe Neuwirth presented her critically-acclaimed cabaret act Stories with Piano at Valley Performing Arts Center, Northridge. Miss Neuwirth has a legion of fans for her two-time Emmy Award winning portrayal of Frasier's cold, bitchy, calculating ex-wife Lilith on TV's Cheers and Frasier and from Broadway where she won two Tonys for her unforgettable performances in Sweet Charity and Chicago. A stellar actress, Neuwirth commands the stage with her sheer presence: no easy task for a lady so petite. But, it goes far beyond aura. There are gusts of unbridled passion conveyed, as she ferociously attacks the story of each song in character, sometimes alone, sometimes essaying two roles. Kander & Ebb, Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill, Sondhiem, Tom Waits and soon Jacques Brel are the musical idols, all vividly brought to life by Neuwirth's brutal honesty and evocatively burning emotional force.
There's a little patter but simply to introduce or comment about the choice of songs. Neuwirth truly conserves energy for her electrically charged delivery, backed by terrific musical director Scott Cady at the piano. Highlights of the hour long evening include: "I Love a Piano", Kander & Ebb's dynamic "Ring Them Bells", Weill/Brecht's brilliant "The Bilbao Song", one of her best endeavors, "Cabaret", "Mr. Bojangles", Sondheim's "Another Hundred People" from Company, with Neuwirth rendering a scarily disturbing quality to its meaning, Edith Piaf's beautiful "Simply a Waltz", Weill's "Surabaya Johnny", another achingly real performance, Tom Waits' rousing "Invitation to the Blues", K & E's "And the World Goes 'Round", stunningly rendered and Waits' equally stunning "Shiver Me Timbers". Neuwirth slithered with a sexually riveting "Slow Boat to China", as she proclaimed "It's not a story song, but it's one of Scott Cady's favorites... that's why I do it." The gorgeous Sammy Fain tune "I'll Be Seeing You" served as encore, which she called "one of the best songs ever written."
At the end of several of the songs Neuwirth struck a dance pose a la Bob Fosse or moved gracefully a few steps left, then a few steps right, as if... I wanted to scream out, "Dance, goddammit!" But, no, this is not a dance show. Just a glimmer, just a tease, to let us know that... she knows what she's doing. Such control! And...
What style! What class! What an actress! Bebe Neuwirth is one of the greats, who delivers fully, acting the hell out of each tune. Don't miss Stories with Piano wherever it performs on tour.