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A Film by Michael Kantor



Bebe Neuwirth

This intense, quirky, multitalented actor-singer-dancer, after achieving Broadway success (including a Tony) as a tough-talking dancer in the 1986 revival of “Sweet Charity,” enjoyed similar award-winning popularity for her deadpan portrayal of the brittle, astringent, yet sexually smoldering Dr. Lilith Sternin-Crane on NBC’s long-running sitcom, CHEERS. Bebe Neuwirth’s parents were a mathematician and an artist, which pretty much sums up her appeal: she seems to have a fiercely analytical approach to her acting. After schooling at Juilliard, she got her start touring in “A Chorus Line” (1978-81), playing various roles, including the tough-talking Sheila and the more vulnerable Cassie, and on Broadway in such productions as “Little Me” and Bob Fosse’s “Dancin'” (both 1982), “The Road to Hollywood” (1984), and “Just So” (1985) before hitting the big time (and winning a Tony Award) in Fosse’s “Sweet Charity ” (1986-87).

By this time, her sharp, dark beauty had brought her to the attention of Hollywood. Neuwirth began doing cameos as Frasier Crane’s repressed siren wife on CHEERS (NBC). She continued as a semiregular character through 1992, and has reprised the role from time to time on the spinoff FRASIER (NBC, 1993-). Her other TV work has been spotty. Neuwirth had supporting roles in the 1990 dramas WITHOUT HER CONSENT (NBC), as famed attorney Gloria Allred, and UNSPEAKABLE ACTS (ABC). She also appeared on the short-lived dark fantasy series WILD PALMS (ABC, 1993). DEAR DIARY, a failed ABC sitcom pilot in which Neuwirth portrayed an editor and diarist, was released in 1996 as a short film and won an Oscar as Best Short Subject.

Neuwirth as Velma Kelly in the 1996 revival of "Chicago."

Neuwirth has appeared in a handful of films, few of which have exploited her peculiar, dry talents. She debuted as a guidance counselor in SAY ANYTHING (1989) and had supporting roles in GREEN CARD (1990), as Andie MacDowell’s best friend, and in BUGSY (1991), as the real-life socialite Countess di Frasso. In the effective thriller MALICE (1993), Neuwirth was the detective trailing Alec Baldwin, while in JUMANJI (1995), she was the aunt of the children who begin playing a mysterious board game. She had perhaps her best role to date in a distinct change of pace as a sexy yuppie in THE ASSOCIATE (1996). Additionally, she has also loaned her talents to the kiddie films ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN 2 (as a voice-over) and THE ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO (both 1996).

She got her start touring in “A Chorus Line.”

But it is onstage that Neuwirth has always been happiest and most effectively utilized. Her combined skills as actor, dancer, and singer have been seen in the musical revue “Showing Off” (New York, 1989), as Lola in the 1994 revival of “Damn Yankees” and in the 1996 revival of “Chicago” on Broadway. In the latter, her portrayal of celebrity murderess Velma Kelly (originated by Chita Rivera in 1975) earned her rave reviews, and she all but overshadowed co-stars Ann Reinking, James Naughton, and Joel Gray. Neuwirth picked up a second Tony Award for her efforts.

Bebe Neuwirth

Born: December 31, 1958
Key Shows
  • "Chicago"
  • "A Chorus Line"
  • "Damn Yankees"
  • "Funny Girl"
  • "Little Me"
  • "Sweet Charity"
Related Artists
  • Michael Bennett
  • Bob Fosse
  • Marvin Hamlisch
  • Kander and Ebb
  • Ann Reinking
  • Gwen Verdon
  • Robin Wagner
  • Tony Walton
Neuwirth had memorable roles in several feature films over the next five years, including playing a hooker in Woody Allen’s film CELEBRITY (1998). She made television appearances as well, most notably returning for an arc on FRASIER in September 2001 as the notorious Dr. Lilith Sternin-Crane. Neuwirth had leading roles in two well-received television movies as well, 1999’s DASH AND LILLY and 2000’s CUPID & CATE.

In 2002, Neuwirth played a sexy chiropractor who seduces a 15-year-old boy who is in love with his stepmother (Sigourney Weaver) in TADPOLE. The movie was a hit with critics and a perfect showcase for Neuwirth’s subtle, out-of-the-ordinary style. She took a supporting role in the romantic comedy HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS (2003) playing a no-nonsense New York fashion editor.
Source: Excerpted from Baseline. BaselineStudioSystems — A Hollywood Media Corp. Company.

Photo credits: Photofest