Bebe Neuwirth is an American actor, dancer, and singer, best known for playing three different characters during different timelines of the ‘Broadway’ show ‘Chicago.’ She started learning ballet at the age of 5 and went on to attend the prestigious ‘Juilliard School’ of performing arts in New York City, from where she majored in dance. She performed with the ‘Princeton Ballet Company’ in shows such as ‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘Peter and the Wolf’ as a junior ballerina. She made her debut on ‘Broadway’ with the musical ‘A Chorus Line.’ She then appeared in ‘Sweet Charity,’ for which she received a ‘Tony Award’ for the ‘Best ‘Featured Actress in a Musical.’ Neuwirth appeared as ‘Dr. Lilith Sternin’ in the TV comedy series ‘Cheers’ and reprised the role in the serial ‘Wings’ and in the spin-off serial ‘Frasier.’ She, however, did not want to get stereotyped, and this made her restrict herself to minor roles and guest appearances on TV. Her notable big-screen credits include her roles in ‘Say Anything…,’ ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,’ and ‘Fame.’ She is presently married to Chris Calkins. She has no children of her own. She is an animal lover who has supported various initiatives for stray animals. She is a respected personality in the entertainment industry.
Childhood & Early Life
Beatrice Neuwirth was born on 31 December, 1958, in Newark, New Jersey, US, to Sydney Anne and Lee Paul Neuwirth. Her mother was a painter, and her father was a mathematician. She has a brother named Peter who is an actuary. Hers is a Jewish family with its roots in Austria, Germany, and Russia.
She started learning ballet at the age of 5 and discovered her inclination toward performing arts at a young age. She graduated from ‘Princeton High School’ in 1976 and went on to attend the prestigious ‘Juilliard School’ in New York City, from 1976 to 1977, majoring in dance.
During this period, she was exposed to theater and got the opportunity to perform with the ‘Princeton Ballet Company’ in shows such as ‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘Peter and the Wolf’ as a junior ballerina. She also appeared in community-theater productions in her neighborhood, which paved the way for her future career as “Bebe Neuwirth.”
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Neuwirth made her first appearance on ‘Broadway’ as ‘Sheila’ in the 1980 musical ‘A Chorus Line.’ This was followed by her appearance in ‘Little Me’ in 1982 and in ‘Sweet Charity’ in 1986. Her work in ‘Sweet Charity’ was recognized by a ‘Tony Award’ for the ‘Best Featured Actress in a Musical.’
From 1986 to 1993, she appeared as ‘Dr. Lilith Sternin’ in the TV comedy serial ‘Cheers.’ She reprised the role in the serial ‘Wings’ and in the ‘Cheers’ spin-off ‘Frasier.’ During the same period, she also appeared in the serials ‘Simon & Simon’ and ‘Fame.’
By now, she was a well-known figure in the entertainment world. She soon made her big-screen debut as ‘Mrs. Evans’ in the movie ‘Say Anything…’ in 1989. This was followed by her appearances in ‘Green Card’ and ‘Bugsy,’ both of which received positive reviews.
Her stage performances in the 1990s included her performance in the 1994 musical comedy ‘Damn Yankees,’ based on the book by George Abbot and Douglass Wallop.
She got her biggest break in 1996, with the role of ‘Velma Kelly’ in the ‘Broadway’ production of ‘Chicago,’ for which she picked up several awards, including a ‘Tony Award’ and an ‘Outer Critics Circle Award.’ From May to October 2004, she appeared in her own musical, ‘Here Lies Jenny’ at the ‘Zipper Theater’ in New York City, where she sang and danced with the assistance of four other musicians. The show was repeated in San Francisco the following year.
Neuwirth presented a one-woman cabaret show with Scott Cady on the piano, accompanied by musicians such as Kurt Weill, Paul McCartney, and John Lennon, in 2009. The following year, she was back on ‘Broadway,’ opposite Nathan Lane, in the original production of ‘The Addams Family.’
She has made a few guest appearances on reality shows and brief appearances in several TV productions, including the TV movie ‘Without Her Consent.’ She appeared in five episodes of ‘Wild Palms’ in 1993 and five episodes of ‘All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Series’ from 1996 to 1998. She was recently seen in the serials ‘Madam Secretary’ and ‘New York Is Dead.’ Her latest movie release was ‘Humor Me’ (2017).
She is currently a respected personality in the entertainment world and has a fan base that spans all ages. Theater has remained her first love, but she is comfortable on TV and on the big screen too.
Some of her noteworthy movies are ‘Say Anything…’ (1989), ‘Bugsy’ (1991), ‘The Adventures of Pinocchio’ (1996), ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’ (2003), ‘Adopt a Sailor’ (2008), and ‘Fame’ (2009).
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Some of the TV serials that have featured Bebe Neuwirth are ‘Cheers’ (1986–1993), ‘Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color’ (1990), ‘Wild Palms’ (1993), ‘Frasier’ (1994–1995), ‘Sabrina, the Teenage Witch’ (1999), ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ (1999, 2005), ‘The Cleveland Show’ (2010), ‘Blue Bloods’ (2013–2018), and ‘Madam Secretary’ (2014–2017).
Her major stage performances have been for ‘A Chorus Line’ (1980), ‘Little Me’ (1982), ‘Sweet Charity’ (1986), ‘Damn Yankees’ (1994), ‘Chicago’ (1996, 2006, and 2014), ‘Funny Girl’ (2002), and ‘The Addams Family’ (2010).
Awards & Achievements
In 1986, she won the ‘Best Featured Actress in a Musical’ award at the ‘Tony Awards,’ for her role in ‘Sweet Charity.’
She won the honor of ‘Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series’ at the ‘Primetime Emmy Awards’ in 1990 and 1991, for her performance in ‘Cheers.’
Neuwirth’s role in ‘Chicago’ earned her the ‘Outstanding Actress in a Musical’ award at the ‘Drama Desk Awards’ and the ‘Best Actress in a Musical’ award at the ‘Tony Awards.’
She also received the ‘Actors Fund Medal of Honor’ in 2011.
She married theater director Paul Dorman in 1984. However, the marriage ended in a divorce in 1991. After her divorce, she dated American actor Michael Danek for a while and got engaged to him in 1997. However, the relationship soured soon. Bebe then married Chris Calkins in 2009. Chris is the founder of ‘Destino Wines,’ a winery in Napa Valley. She was also linked to TV personality George Stephanopoulos, before she got married to her present husband.
She has no children of her own. She is an animal lover and has financially supported many initiatives for the well-being of stray cats and dogs.
Bebe had to undergo a hip replacement surgery in May 2006. However, the surgery did not stop her from continuing with her acting career.
The notable ‘Broadway’ venture ‘Chicago’ had her portraying ‘Velma Kelly,’ ‘Roxie Hart,’ and ‘Mama Morton,’ in 1996, 2006, and 2014, respectively. This made her the first actor to play three different characters during different timelines of the same ‘Broadway’ show.
After her success in the TV serial ‘Cheers,’ she did not want to get stereotyped and preferred to get back to ‘Broadway’ instead. Hence, she restricted herself to minor roles and guest appearances on TV.