David Hyde Pierce Returns To Roots

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Actor David Hyde Pierce is best known for his 11 years playing the endearingly neurotic Niles Crane on the hit TV show, "Frasier."

When the show ended its long run last year, Pierce decided to return to Broadway, where his career first caught fire.

And he's returning in a big way, as the star of the eagerly anticipated musical, "Monty Python's Spamalot," directed by Hollywood heavyweight Mike Nichols and co-starring Tim Curry and Hank Azaria.

CBS News Correspondent Eugenia Zukerman spoke with him about "Spamalot," and life after Frasier.

"Spamalot" tells the tale of King Arthur and his knights as they seek the Holy Grail.

The play's official Web site describes the production as "a new musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture, 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail.' "
It's been in previews at Broadway's Shubert Theatre since Feb. 14, and formally opens March 17. "Spamalot" had a five-week tryout run in Chicago, and the Web site lists numerous rave reviews.

The site describes "Spamalot" as the "biggest musical event since 937 A.D. …(It's an) outrageous tale of brave knights, fair maidens and killer rabbits.

"This medieval musical comedy, featuring a book by Eric Idle and score by Idle and John DuPrez, is directed by Tony Award and Oscar-winner Mike Nichols."

Playbill.com says, "Original Monty Python star Eric Idle had always thought the British comedy team's film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" was fit material for musicalization. Now the comedian, with composer John Du Prez, will see that dream (now three years in the making) come true with 'Monty Python's Spamalot."

According to Playbill.com, "Idle noted the cult following the film has. 'You have to maintain true to the people, the purists who want to see this. There are many out there; it's a very popular movie. So there's no point in straying too far from that. That's what we're doing. But at the same time, you have to recognize this is a stageshow.'"

Pierce received three Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, seven American Comedy Awards and five Viewers for Quality Television Awards "for his portrayal of the snobbish psychiatrist Niles Crane, brother to the title character on 'Frasier,' " says the show's official Web site.

"His relationship with Frasier is a mix of sibling rivalry, condescension, passive aggression and brotherly love," Pierce told the site.

More on Pierce from the "Frasier" site:

Pierce was born in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He received a bachelor of arts degree from Yale with a double major in English and theater arts.

In 1981 Pierce went to New York City and quickly got a job selling ties in Bloomingdale's while he studied acting. He landed his first professional acting job in "Beyond Therapy" on Broadway, followed by stints off-Broadway and in regional theater. Between 1983-85, he worked in various productions at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis before returning to appear in the New York Shakespeare Festival production of "Hamlet." He interrupted his stage work for a role in his first feature film, "Bright Lights, Big City," before departing on a tour of the Soviet Union and Japan in "The Cherry Orchard," from 1988-89.

Pierce's big break came when he appeared on Broadway for six months in "The Heidi Chronicles," which earned him the attention of the media and his peers. More featured roles followed in such films as "Little Man Tate" and "The Fisher King." His other big-screen credits include "Crossing Delancey," "Rocket Gibraltar," "Sleepless in Seattle," "Wolf," "Nixon," "A Bug's Life" and "Isn't She Great?" Pierce will next be seen opposite Jeff Goldblum and Salma Hayek in the film "Chain of Fools."

During his most recent hiatus from "Frasier,' Pierce wrapped production on the independent film "Wet, Hot, American Summer," opposite Janeane Garofolo and Paul Rudd.

Prior to "Frasier," Pierce starred in the comedy "The Powers That Be," in which he portrayed a chronically depressed and suicidal United States congressman. His additional television credits include guest-starring roles on "Crime Story," "Spenser: For Hire," NBC's "Caroline in the City," "The Outer Limits" and "The Simpsons."

In his leisure time, Pierce enjoys playing piano (he used to be a church organist) and skiing. He currently lives in Los Angeles.