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“Buyer & Cellar” at the Menier Chocolate Factory

March 25, 2015

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(Seen at the afternoon performance on 15th March 2015).

Official text: “Buyer & Cellar is an outrageous new comedy about the oddest of odd jobs – an underemployed Los Angeles actor going to work in Barbra Streisand’s Malibu basement…

It stars the award-winning Michael Urie best known for his TV roles in Ugly Betty and The Good Wife. He has also starred on Broadway in How to Succeed… and in London he most recently appeared in Celebrity Autobiography.”

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My Opinion: To misquote the show, “there are not enough Oliviers in the world that they could throw at Michael Urie.” This young actor holds the audience in the palm of his hand for an hour and 40 minutes without once losing its attention, without a single stumble or hesitation, yet alert and interested enough in his own work to allow himself the odd genuine giggle and pause for his engrossed audience to express their appreciation.

The real masterstroke of the performance is actually at the beginning. Michael Urie introduces himself and sets the scene with a little back-story about Barbra Streisand’s ‘coffee-table’ book “My Passion for Design” and how it influenced writer Jonathan Tolins to imagine what it would be like if an unemployed actor (the reason for that unemployment is hilarious in itself) got the job of pretending to be a shop assistant in Steisand’s private underground home shopping mall.

Ms Steisand herself is treated with respect. Urie naturally switches voice and body-language to narrate conversations, but it’s without parody. Indeed, sympathetic even as the tale becomes more outrageous.

A perfect bland setting by Andrew Boyce, and simple projections from Alex Koch are enough for Urie to let us tour the estate, and the attention to detail includes an authentic American Kit Kat wrapper.

It’s witty laughter from start to finish, and expect a sore ribcage by the time the show ends. As a masterclass in both writing and acting, this is completely unmissable on all counts.

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