Baltimore Hebrew Congregation will hold its eighth annual Night of the Stars benefit next week to raise money for BHC’s youth community, including the E.B. Hirsh Early Childhood Center and youth education.
“We are using the proceeds this year to continue to create programming that is innovative, inclusive and flexible. Our programs are wonderful at creating community and enriching the Jewish lives of our families,” said Brad Cohen, BHC’s director of education. “We are so thrilled with the support Night of the Stars is able to provide us.”
Previous Night of the Stars events featured performances by Jason Alexander, Lily Tomlin and Paul Reiser. This year’s headliner will be Bebe Neuwirth, best known for her award-winning roles as Dr. Lilith Sternin on the sitcoms “Cheers” and “Frasier” and as Velma Kelly in the Broadway musical “Chicago.”
Neuwirth, who has been dancing, singing and acting onstage since the age of 7, will perform her show “Stories with Piano” with musical director and pianist Scott Cady. In the past, the duo has performed songs by everyone from German composer Kurt Weill to French chanteuse Edith Piaf to American singer- songwriter Tom Waits.
The Jewish Times caught up with Neuwirth in advance of her visit to Baltimore.
How did your show “Stories with Piano” come about?
I went to my good friend Scott Cady, a music director and spectacular pianist who I worked with on “Chicago” and my symphony show where I sang Kurt Weill and I said, “I think I’d like to do a show that is just you and me, and open it up to all different composers and styles.”
The process consisted of listening to and considering all kinds of songs that we both loved. Some of the songs I knew and loved he did not know, and some of the songs he knew and loved I did not know. So we had a lot of considering to do.
The show has evolved since then. And the process now is very much like the process when we put the show together years ago. Which songs do we love? And of those songs, how do they make sense together? Do they make sense musically together? Will we need to stop between songs? A lot of songs we loved we couldn’t do, because they wouldn’t fit as part of the whole.
My forte is storytelling. It’s just like being in a scene in a play; these songs are moments in a character’s life. My focus is more on the emotional content and story of the piece. It’s not about the sound of my voice. It’s about the emotional content.
What other collaborations have you done with Scott Cady?
We did a studio album called “Porcelain” — it was me and Scott and a couple of other fine musicians. We also did a version of “Stories with Piano,” at Feinstein’s 54 Below. There is a live album of that show from five years ago. It’s called “Stories in New York City.”
You’re a well-known screen actress. How does performing onstage compare to performing for the camera?
I’ve been onstage since I was 7. The theater is really my home. Anything I’ve done on camera has really been done sort of by accident. All I’ve ever wanted to do is be onstage. I’ll go off and do something on television or make a movie, but I always come home.
The theater is such a visceral event. It’s the most exciting for an audience. You can see dance on film, and it’s thrilling, but there’s nothing like the experience of being in the audience and watching that on the stage.
As the performer, the stage is far more satisfying. It’s not about the sound of the applause; it’s about the energetic exchange. The performance is received and you feel it being received in the silences, and just in the air.
What do you like to do when you’re not performing?
I make pottery. If someone is an artist, regardless of their main medium, we need to express. We need to be creative. If I’m not working on anything, if I’m not in rehearsal, I still have the creative energy that needs to go somewhere. For me, it’s ceramics.
Everybody has that. That’s why the arts in schools are so important. That energy is part of who we are as humans. Children need to express, they need crayons, they need music. Some of us need it much more than others.
Any new projects in the works?
Just a few concerts right now. There are a few things that are quietly being talked about, but nothing for public consumption.