Review: ‘Bebe Neuwirth — Stories With Piano’

The fundamental things apply" is the prophetic phrase from Herman Hupfeld's timeless torch song "As Time Goes By," which serves as a preface to "Stories With Piano," a collection of musical tales performed by Bebe Neuwirth.

The fundamental things apply” is the prophetic phrase from Herman Hupfeld’s timeless torch song “As Time Goes By,” which serves as a preface to “Stories With Piano,” a collection of musical tales performed by Bebe Neuwirth. In her nightclub debut at Feinstein’s, the Broadway baby and two-time Tony winner (“Chicago,” “Sweet Charity”) sings with a tough, flavorful voice that has an expressively rusty edge.

A restless energy dominates the singer’s program, which has a decided accent on travel — from the persistent clang-clang of “The Trolley Song” to Frank Loesser’s playful ocean-crossing tune “On a Slow Boat to China.” Neuwirth’s journey is further fueled by Stephen Sondheim’s “Another Hundred People,” sung with a stormy sense of fury that then subsides in a benedictory “But the World Goes Round,” by John Kander and Fred Ebb.

At the center of Neuwirth’s hour is her nuanced interpretation of a group of Kurt Weill songs, reprising the performer’s “Here Lies Jenny” revue from four years ago. Instinctively theatrical, Neuwirth brings a wistful actor’s insight to the selections, from the biting Brechtian cynicism of “Bilbao Song” to the numbing melancholy of “Surabaya Johnny.” The perky lyrics of Ogden Nash serve Weill’s “How Much I Love You,” and “Je Ne T’Aime Pas” provides a haunting French postscript.

For purists, there’s nothing more comfortable than the fervent allure of Irving Berlin’s “It Only Happens When I Dance With You,” sung with whispery grace, and certainly no better encore than a sweetly understated “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

On piano, Scott Cady provides vigorous support, if a touch overpowering at times.

Bebe Neuwirth -- Stories With Piano

Feinstein's at Loews Regency; 150 capacity; $60 top

Production

Presented inhouse. Piano, Scott Cady. Opened, reviewed May 20, 2008. Runs through May 31.

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