Michael Urie stars as a struggling Los Angeles actor who finds himself working in Barbra Streisand's basement in Jonathan Tolins' Buyer & Cellar, which returns Off-Broadway and begins performances June 18 at the Barrow Street Theatre. Here, Urie picks his favorite Streisand songs as part of Playbill.com's Playbill Playlist series.
Stephen Brackett directs the solo-actor play, which is billed this way: "Alex More has a story to tell. A struggling actor in L.A., he takes a job working in the Malibu basement of a beloved mega-superstar. One day, the Lady Herself comes downstairs to play. It feels like real bonding in the basement, but will their relationship ever make it upstairs? Buyer & Cellar is an outrageous comedy about the price of fame, the cost of things, and the oddest of odd jobs."
The production had an earlier, extended run this spring at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater's Waverly Place home. Critics embraced the production.
Buyer & Cellar will officially open June 24 at the Barrow Street for a ten-week engagement. In anticipation of its opening night at Barrow Street, Playbill.com asked Urie to pick his favorite Streisand tunes and tell us why they made the list.
"I was always a fan of Barbra, thanks to my mother and her introducing me to the comeback concert from the 90s," Urie told Playbill.com. "I knew when I watched it that Barbra was special, but I distinctly remember asking my mother 'why' people liked her so much. It didn't take long until I knew for myself... Since working on Buyer & Cellar, I have become a huge fan of hers, not just the music, but the movies, too. Since I sort of 'emulate' her in the play, the movies and concert videos have become very influential, as you'll see below. I feel very lucky to be immersed in Babs these days."
"Have I Stayed Too Long At The Fair?" Early, early Streisand (1966)…and WOW she sounds like a child. I love the innocence you can hear here, though I doubt she ever was completely innocent. She sings this now (there's a 2006 recording) and it has a whole new meaning.
"I'm Still Here / Everybody Says Don't / Don't Rain On My Parade" medley from the comeback concert. I love this one — the lyrics are rewritten to be all about HER. When I was 14, I didn't understand it, but my mom explained it all to me. The "I kept my nose to spite my face" is my favorite. I also love when someone uses one word to bridge a gap between songs in a medley or concert as in "Everybody says don't, everybody says — Don't tell me not to live, just sit and putter!" (There's also a great example of this motif later in the concert when she says something like, "But these days isn't it hard to remember that we're all just ... Peeeeople ...." I love that kinda thing.)
Since I was so influenced by my parents with my taste in music, I asked them to share their favorite Barbra songs, here they are: "'The Way We Were' because it's a great song, and Barbra sings it well, but the main reason is because it makes me remember when we had it all…kids at home, parents, lots of friends and we were young."-Dad
"I love every song - especially the very early ones. However, since I have to choose one, I choose 'Don't Rain On My Parade' from 'Funny Girl.' Her voice, her delivery, her expressions and emotions are all in that one song. In the show she finds her strength but I think it's also the anthem of her life." -Mom
"Roller Skate Rag" While we're on "Funny Girl," I re-discovered this one researching Buyer & Cellar, and laughed my butt off. It's such a brilliant number, and she's hilarious in it. If I could go back to see anything from her early work, it would be her easy and deft comic skills in this.
"Put On Your Sunday Clothes" from "Hello, Dolly!" This is one of my very favorite musicals, and my favorite part of this HUGE movie. I love how long she holds that note at the end. That can't be real, right?? Is this the first auto-tune???
"Much More" An incredible song about a precocious "girl" from The Fantasticks, sung by a precocious young Babs. You can really hear in this track how in sync she is with the music — behind it, ahead of it, all over it and so hypnotic.
Judy Garland-Barbra Streisand duet to "Get Happy / Happy Days Are Here Again" This always makes me giddy. I wonder if the people who were in the room when this happened knew how special it was. Watching BS and JG hang onto each other and sway and hop, you forget they're sitting down! And, oh, that wonderful screaming! I just made my partner, Ryan, watch it, and after about a minute he said, "Oh yeah, I've seen this" and turned it off. I yelled at him and made him put it back on so we could finish it. My mom also added, "I remember sitting on the floor in front of the television as a teenager watching it on the 'Judy Garland Show' and being mesmerized by them. One of those moments you don't want to end. Even then I could see there was a 'passing of the torch' taking place, but I didn’t understand it at the time."
And, of course, Jonathan Tolins, the brilliant writer of Buyer & Cellar is also a huge part of why I love Barbra, so I asked for his. "It's very hard to choose, but I suppose I'd have to pick 'He Touched Me.' Barbra's singing is spectacular and the souped-up arrangement by Peter Matz is killer. There's a French horn solo — right after the false ending on 'suddenly nothing is the same' — that always makes my hair stand on end. (I got to work with Peter Matz on my play If Memory Serves, which adds to my sentimental attachment to that track.)" - Jon
"Tell Him" - duet with Celine Dion. I mean, come on... It's Streisand and Dion singing their faces off. I like to picture them screaming right at each other in the recording studio. I dare you not to smile, bite your lip and sway to this one.
"Somewhere" This is a perfect song, obviously, and to see how she's reinvented it over the years to be about so many different people is inspiring. Maybe I'm a sap — okay definitely I'm a sap — but I can't get enough of this song. It's hope and regret all at once.
"Life On Mars" Barbra recorded this brilliant David Bowie cover, and all is right with the world! It's simply huge in every way. The first time I heard it, I listened to it again immediately. I liked it so much that I begged Stephen Brackett (our director) to make it our exit music as the audience leaves the theatre after the show. I also love this song because it symbolizes the end of my show, which is my favorite moment every night. I don't mean that I'm happy to be finished, but since I'm on stage and talking for 95 minutes straight, without a break, finally getting to exit means I can use the restroom, take a drink of water, pop a lozenge and really think about everything that just happened. It's a nice moment of reflection. And synthesizers.