PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Buyer & Cellar — Hire Down Below

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27 Jun 2013

Michael Urie
Michael Urie
Photo by Sandra Coudert

Meet the first-nighters at the Off-Broadway opening of Buyer & Cellar. Michael Urie, Holland Taylor, Jane Lynch and Vanessa Williams were there — so was Playbill.


Well, now I guess it's official: First, there was that Comedy of Errors mix-up of identical twins up in Central Park with Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Hamish Linklater. Then, there was a fuddy-duddy funfest about admitting a female scientist into the last unchecked bastion of male superiority, The Explorer's Club, an 1879 London gentlemen's club reimagined in Manhattan Theatre Club's City Center space. Now, Buyer & Cellar has shifted its basement shopping mall for Barbra Streisand to play with and pretend to buy stuff she already owns farther downtown — from its cramped, sold-out Rattlestick stand to the more spacious Barrow Street Theatre.

Given all the above, I think we can safely say we're steeped in the season of silly. The mischievous sprite in charge of Barbra's booty is an out-of-work gay actor named Alex More, played by an industriously overworked gay actor named Michael Urie, who raked in several 2012-2013 prizes (including Actors' Equity's Clarence Derwent Award) for his dime-spinning dizziness zipping in and out of characters.

Streisand is formidably in that number, swapping bon mots with the help, haggling over prices, starving off quiet desperation ("Nobody pops by"), breaking Kit-Kats together — in general, just getting to know him. Gradually, the worm turns, and, in short order, he's giving career advice ("Do Gypsy!") and nurturing her Mama Rose.

There are other characters parading through this affable antic. The Great Lady's excessively straight-arrow hubby, actor James Brolin, strays in once to fetch some frozen yogurt. Then, there's Streisand's tough-cookie manager, Sharon, who hires the personnel, thus keeping the goddess one degree of separation from employees. After hours, there's Alex's cynical scriptwriting boyfriend, Barry. No lover of Babs, he functions like a bad-cop reality check to Alex's ever-adoring slave.

Speaking of reality checks, this is probably the place to point out that all of the above is fiction — a fantastic fabrication — inspired lunacy that took hold of playwright Jonathan Tolins when he read "My Passion for Design," La Streisand's coffee-table book documenting the treasures she has acquired in life and found a home for underneath her Malibu dream house. Leaving nothing to chance, she did the text and the principal photography herself. ("How did she get her?" gasps the amazed Alex.)

It's a merry little charade, with endless rifts and rapid-fire one-liners, all of which add up to a full meal. Afterward, the laugh-bloated first-nighters traveled just a few curlicue streets to Perilla for a gridlocked opening night party that already had a glow on. Passed appetizers and drinks-on-the-house were the order of the night. The specialty drink was named after a French favorite in Barbra's dollhouse — The Fifi, which consisted of vodka, syrup, grapefruit juice and sparkling wine.


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