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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
BEBE NEUWIRTH: ‘STORIES WITH PIANO’
at FEINSTEIN’S AT LOEWS REGENCY

SHE HAS ALL THE TOOLS
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Bebe Neuwirth in ‘Stories With Piano’

Having mastered the small screen (Cheers) and big stage (Chicago), Bebe Neuwirth is, surprisingly, new to the cabaret circuit: her appearance at Feinstein's is her first such solo show in so intimate a setting, and she tackles it like a pro.

No preliminary schmoozing to warm up the audience - which makes sense, because they've seen her, chosen her, and are warmly predisposed. With Scott Cady providing sensitive piano accompaniment, she launches right into two cinematic chestnuts: As Time Goes By, then The Trolley Song - the latter, so intensely and imaginatively acted, it seems absolutely fresh.

It's only then, once we've been both reassured and dazzled, that she indulges in a bit of patter, while sipping from a mini-bottle of Champagne through a straw. The rest of the evening - roughly a score of songs all told - is heavily skewed toward Kurt Weill, whose story-songs (About Susan's Dream, Billbao Song, Surabaya Johnny) well suit Neuwirth's dramatic flair. Bookending these are two seemingly antithetical but congruent Weill collaborations: How Much I Love You, featuring the witty lyrics of Ogden Nash, and Je Ne T'Aime Pas, a contradictory cri de coeur from Maurice Magre.

We come expecting at least a dash of comedy, and Neuwirth doesn't disappoint: Ring Them Bells, the Kander/Ebb saga of fortuitous intercontinental romance, is a knockout. The only real misfire is Sondheim's Another Hundred People, which she delivers as an unrelentingly embittered rant- there's got to be a least a touch of wonder in there. It's also an instance in which Neuwirth's broad vibrato - tolerable on the low tones - gets the better of her, to unpleasant effect.

But the songs that really transport her, like Billbao, do the same for the audience: when she sings it was fantastic, you can't help believing, and envisioning the shady pleasure palaces of your own lost youth. And with a lesser-known Piaf treasure, Les Amants d'un Jour , which alternates between sangfroid and post-traumatic stress, Neuwirth will coolly, skillfully tear your heart in two.

 


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