A versatile actress who has displayed a talent for both comedy and drama, Bebe Neuwirth is also a gifted dancer and vocalist who has won acclaim for her work on the musical stage, though she's still best known to television viewers as Lilith Sternin, Frazier Crane's tightly wound girlfriend (and later wife) on the popular comedy Cheers. Born Beatrice Neuwirth on New Year's Eve, 1958, she was raised in Princeton, NJ, where her father, Lee Neuwirth, was a mathematician and her mother, Sydney Anne Neuwirth, was an artist. Bebe began taking dance lessons at the age of five, and, while a student at Princeton High School, she began appearing in local ballet productions and community theater productions. After high school, Neuwirth studied dance at New York's prestigious Juilliard School, and in 1980 she made her professional debut as Shelia, a once-famous dancer looking to make a comeback, in a touring production of the long-running musical A Chorus Line. In 1982, Neuwirth hit Broadway in two different shows, Dancin', directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, and Little Me. In 1986, Neuwirth won the starring role in another Fosse musical, a revival of Sweet Charity, which later earned her a Tony award and cemented her reputation on Broadway. That year also marked Neuwirth's television debut (not counting a brief appearance as a member of the Whitney Dance Theater on the daytime drama The Edge of Night in 1981) with her first appearance as Lilith Sternin on Cheers; Lilith soon became a regular fixture on Cheers and Neuwirth won two Emmy awards for her work until Lilith was written out of the show (at Neuwirth's request) in 1992, to allow Neuwirth to pursue film and stage work. Lilith, however, occasionally made return visits to Cheers, and later on Kelsey Grammer's spin-off series, Frasier. Neuwirth made her feature-film debut in 1989 with a small role as a guidance counselor in Say Anything..., and while a steady stream of supporting roles followed in such films as Bugsy, Green Card, and Jumanji, she had a hard time finding screen roles which suited her edgy charm. She continued to have better luck on-stage, and in 1997 her performance in the Broadway revival of Chicago won her the Tony and Drama Desk awards. After scoring meatier roles in the films Summer of Sam and Liberty Heights, Neuwirth returned to episodic television in the well-reviewed but short-lived drama series Deadline, in which she worked alongside Oliver Platt, Lili Taylor, and Tom Conti. In 2002, Neuwirth finally scored a film role that truly suited her talents as Diane, a sexy fourtysomething woman who seduces her best friend's teenage son in the independent comedy Tadpole. She had a small part in the romantic comedy How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and in 2005 she landed a recurring role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In 2009 she played one of the teachers at a high school for the performing arts in the remake of Fame.
Biography by Rovi
- Danced with the Princeton Ballet Company as a junior ballerina before moving to New York.
- Majored in dance for two years at Juilliard before leaving to pursue a career on Broadway.
- Broadway debut was as a replacement in A Chorus Line, as Sheila.
- Left Cheers and the character of Dr. Lilith Sternin-Crane at her own request to pursue film roles and other commitments.
- Appeared in a series of M&M commercials in 1995.
- Ten years after originating the role of Velma Kelly in Chicago, she returned to the show in 2006 playing the other lead, Roxie Hart.
- Received an Actors Fund Medal of Honor in 2011 for her work with the group, which provides support to members of the entertainment industry.