Bebe Neuwirth has been fascinated with stories since she was a little girl watching "The Addams Family" on TV. Saturday night, she performs the third incarnation of her "Stories With Piano" cabaret show for Staller Center's Gala 2012.
"I always wanted to play Morticia," says Neuwirth, who realized her dream by singing opposite Nathan Lane's Gomez in the 2010-11 Broadway musical. Carolyn Jones, who originated the role of Morticia in the '60s TV series, "was so elegant and graceful," Neuwirth recalled in a phone interview. "My hair is naturally curly and I was jealous. Hers was so long and straight. I'm happy to have curly hair now, but kids always want what they don't have."
"That's the power of TV," she says. "A lot more people know Lilith than any role I've played on Broadway."
HOOFER AT HEART
Neuwirth won't be doing a career retrospective Saturday night. "That's not what this is about," she says. So you won't see her hoofing it at Staller. "I certainly do wiggle, but there are no dance numbers," she says. That has nothing to do with her 2006 hip replacement. "I still dance," she says, "just not every day."
Nor will you hear songs from "Sweet Charity" or "Chicago." Neuwirth won her first Tony as the optimistic prostitute, Charity, in the 1986 revival. Her second Tony -- also for a revival (she played "Chicago's Velma Kelly) -- came in 1997. Neuwirth waited 10 more years before returning to "Chicago" -- it's still running -- to play Roxie Hart. Of the scores of actresses who've appeared in the Kander-and-Ebb classic, Neuwirth alone played both Velma and Roxie on Broadway.
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At Staller, "Stories With Piano #3" features essentially the same song list that she and Scott Cady, her music director-pianist, assembled for their Feinstein's at Loews Regency gig in November.
"A full range of emotions are embodied in these songs," she says, "joy, heartbreak, nostalgia, yearning -- to create an evening all of one piece, to make it cohesive."
One of the modern masters of story songs, Tom Waits, makes the Neuwirth cut with "Invitation to the Blues" and "Shiver Me Timbers" -- both of which also appear on her new CD, "Bebe Neuwirth Porcelain" (The Leopard Works Records). "Tom Waits is such a genius," she offers. Also on the album and in concert tomorrow night are "Ring Them Bells" by Kander and Ebb, plus Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles."
Staller's gala is the last time you can catch Bebe in cabaret for awhile. Soon she begins rehearsal for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" for Manhattan's Classic Stage Company in April. She plays Titania, queen of fairies.
But that's another story.
WHAT Gala 2012: Bebe Neuwirth's "Stories With Piano," with pianist Scott Cady
WHEN | WHERE Tomorrow night at 8, Staller Center, Stony Brook University
INFO Sold out, but call for availability of $400-a-couple donor tickets; stallercenter.com, 631-632-2787