Catching Up with Bebe Neuwirth


By Dustin Fitzharris

When you think of Bebe Neuwirth you don't think creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky. OK, maybe Lilith Stern, her beloved role on Cheers and Frasier was a little like that, but not Bebe, the 5'4'' dark-haired dancer from Princeton, N.J.

But now Neuwirth is slipping into a form-fitting black gown and tapping into her ghoulish side, playing Morticia Addams in the new Broadway musical The Addams Family, based on the cartoons originally published in The New Yorker.

Out caught up with Neuwirth in her dressing room recently where she opened up about the show and her new marriage and addressed the rumors circling that she's a prima donna.

Out: How did you get involved in this show?
Bebe Neuwirth: I was thrilled when Marshall Brickman [cowriter of the book] called me up and said he and Rick [Elice] had written a musical of The Addam's Family and they had written Morticia with me in mind and wanted to know if I would do a reading. I mean, that's a good phone call.

They actually wrote it for you?
That's what they've told me, and I believe them.

How did you prepare for the role?
I was very familiar with the cartoons -- The New Yorker cartoons. I have a big book of them that my brother had given me for a birthday many years ago. I watched the show when I was a little girl in the '60s. What I did to prepare was go back to the cartoons. I looked at not only what she said, but how she stood, how she sat and all her physicality. I do like to work from the outside in whenever possible. As a dancer, I think that makes really good sense to me. When you look at people, you can sort of judge a book by its cover. A lot of times the way we are psychically has a lot to do with what's going on inside.

What did you learn about Morticia? Who is she?
She has an elegance. She's very feminine. She's an archetype of a certain kind of femininity. I think that's why so many women and little girls responded to her.

And Morticia dances ...
She does. They found a very interesting way to get her to dance. It's very true to her character and Sergio Trujillo, our choreographer, found a way for her to move within the confines of that dress. He's quite familiar with the [Bob] Fosse choreography, and he was in the original company of Fosse. So, we have a shared vocabulary there.

Recently some publications have written that you've been acting like a diva around the cast and crew. One even said tantrums can be heard emanating from your dressing room. How do you respond when negative things are written about you?
It hurts my feelings. I feel really bad, especially if the things they are saying are not true. I have this fantasy of getting my own blog that says, 'Fuck you, here's what really happened.' I can't go there, and I wouldn't go there, and I hesitate to even tell you that. But when I say something like that, it's just because my feelings are hurt. Anytime a person lashes out it's because their feelings are hurt. So, if I say, 'Fuck you, here's what really happened,' it's because I've spent some time crying earlier and now I'm finding a way to make a joke about it.