Review – Buyer & Cellar, Menier Chocolate Factory

Monday 16 March 2015

buyer-and-cellar-at-the-menier-chocolate-factory-fa81fd7fbd0f45714127953e51189d31If, like us, you’re of a certain age and/or have a cultural consciousness that includes the likes of David Geffen, Cloris Leachman, Doris Roberts, Mildred Pierce, Irene Sharaff and a working knowledge of Barbra Streisand this may be the show for you.

Buyer & Cellar (incidentally yesterday’s Sunday Times crossword used the same play on the word ‘cellar’ in one of its answers. Heard publican’s role in basement bar (4, 6)* ) stars Ugly Betty‘s Michael Urie as a struggling actor, Alex More, who is sacked from Disneyland for threatening to do something unspeakable with a churro to a rude child and finds employment working in Ms Streisand’s basement shopping mall. In fact he’s the only employee there, serving frozen yoghurt and selling her own extensive collection of collectables back to her as she haggles with him over the price.

Will he form a bond with her when she comes down to ‘play’ and will he ever be invited upstairs to her Malibu mansion? Sounds bizarre and crazy? It is.

Writer Jonathan Tolins’ inspiration came from Streisand’s coffee-table book “My Passion for Design” displaying her house and huge accumulation of stuff which really is displayed in faux shops under her home. You couldn’t make this up. The rest is fantasy and comes with a clear litigation-avoiding disclaimer at the beginning of the show.

Stephen Brackett directs the proceedings to zip along. Urie (who performed the show Off Broadway) plays all the parts but you never feel you’re watching just one man on stage. Switching between characters from Alex’s boyfriend to James Brolin with an amusing toss of the head and eschewing a direct impersonation of the Lady herself but with enough Streisand intonation to entertain, he convinces us we’re party to real conversations however bonkers some of them are. His exhausting, busy 1 hour 40 minute performance is winningly charming, outrageous and laugh out loud throughout.

Phil is now desperate to watch The Mirror Has Two Faces again after the utterly hilarious plot summary presented here and will he be able to see Gypsy in the same light after the brilliant reworking for a 70 year old woman we’re treated to? Probably not.

And despite a rather chilling take on the madness of fame and the world of über celebrity which pervades the hilarity this is probably the funniest thing on a London stage at the moment. It’s certainly the campest.

* Beer cellar since you asked.

Enjoy Babs plugging her “perfect Christmas gift” book on Oprah and gasp as she gives us a tour of her home and “street of shops”. Take note of the chickens, they’re mentioned in the show.



One Response to “Review – Buyer & Cellar, Menier Chocolate Factory”

  1. Billy Says:

    “eschewing a direct impersonation of the Lady herself but with enough Streisand intonation to entertain”

    Isn’t this a rather Saintsburyian description of the Whingers’ prose style as well?

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