Contributor Scott Redman gives a listen to Bebe Neuwirth’s new release, Stories… in NYC.
Bebe Neuwirth, the sultry sounding Broadway triple threat dancer /singer/actress, has recently released a live recording of her performance at New York City’s iconic cabaret space, 54 Below.
Stories… in NYC: Live at 54 Below (available as digital download or CD) showcases the unchained power of a true performer who does everything in her body to portray songs with passion and truth. Neuwirth is dynamically accompanied by music director and pianist Scott Cady. The 19 tracks include songs from Broadway as well as standards and contemporary selections.
What makes this recording astounding is Neuwirth’s ability to communicate explicitly without regret overflowing with raw passion. Neuwirth starts the evening singing “I Love a Piano”, her old audition song that gave her the opportunity to perform on Broadway, as she recalls her first audition for the musical Dancin’. Neuwirth’s signature vibrato flourishes like the lights of Times Square. Her quirky delivery is often self-depricating as she commits to the audience to perform story songs that have a personal connection to her life as a dancer. There is chatter between musical numbers as Neuwirth engages the audience.
Musical highlights include Kurt Weill’s “Susan’s Dream,” which examines the relationship between dreams and reality. Neuwirth’s voice is primed with a haunting tone as she uncovers the staleness in everyday life. “Mr. Bojangles” (written by Jerry Jeff Walker) tells the story of a southern gypsy dancer who has led a life entertaining those around him. Here Neuwirth isn’t just performing — she is embodying the song, which sounds like a conversation with an old friend. She doesn’t just sing of “Mr. Bojangles” but knows him and understands the pain and joy in his life. “Mr. Bojangles. Mr. Bojangles… dance.”
Neuwirth particularly delivers the Kander and Ebb songs “And the World Goes ‘Round” and “Ring Them Bells” with exceptional aplomb. It is here that the dancer inside Neuwirth relaxes and embodies the music and lyrics as if she is slipping into a snug leather glove. The rhythms come naturally to a dancer who has lived through John Kander and Fred Ebb’s songs and shows (Neuwirth won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Velma Kelly in the 1996 revival of Chicago).
Stories… in NYC offers an exceptional showcase of Bebe Neuwirth’s talent, which is a rare power to convey an array of emotional values and give meaning to lyrics. The final song “Shiver Me Timbers” demonstrates this immense power. The balance between brassy and quiet moments of her singing allows the listener to experience the full vigor what a talented performer with a simple piano accompaniment can deliver to an audience. Her approach is wholly unique and uses the sentiments of New York City to tell her stories. Keep telling them Bebe.
Here’s a rare look at Bebe’s silly side as she reinterprets “All That Jazz” for Musical Madlibs.