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The Theatreguide.London Review

Buyer & Cellar
Menier Chocolate Factory  Spring 2015

Imagine if you will (because it happens to be true) that Barbra Streisand has decorated the basement of her home as a kind of shopping mall, with individual stores rather than plain closets for the clothes, furniture and other tchotchkes she keeps down there. 

Now imagine (because this part isn't true) that she hires an out-of-work actor to be custodian and play shopkeeper to serve her when she comes downstairs for something. 

That's the premise of this wickedly comic solo show written by Jonathan Tolins and performed by Michael Urie under Stephen Brackett's apt direction. 

After a prelude sorting out for clarity and imagined legal reasons just what is fact and what is fiction, Urie plays a half-dozen characters, most notably the actor and his employer, who takes a liking to the lad and starts inventing reasons to come to the basement and hang out with him. 

What results is, of course, a camp-fest of bitchy humour tempered with just enough sentiment to give it warmth without turning maudlin. 

The imagined Barbra is all diva to the point of approaching a gay man's impersonation of her – a touch of metatheatre there, perhaps – but the image of the isolated superstar simultaneously basking in a fan's adulation and sincerely enjoying the rare opportunity for natural small talk and joking also rings true, without losing its comic edge. 

Michael Urie invests the character telling and living the story with the infectiously manic excitement of the gay man glimpsing heaven, while remaining aware of – and delighted by – the absurd excesses of both star and fan. 

Along the way playwright Tolins drops in excellent gags , show biz and Los Angeles in-jokes, and the obligatory Judy Garland references, all in the service of a combined celebration and send-up of the whole image of super-diva and gay icon. 

Give free rein to your naughty side and Buyer & Cellar is this season's guilty pleasure.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Buyer & Cellar - Menier Chocolate Factory 2015

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