Buyer & Cellar at the Menier Chocolate Factory is camp entertainment at its finest. To properly enjoy the show, I’m sure most would say you need at least a basic knowledge of Barbra Streisand; without this, many of the references and one-liners would be lost, and they are the key to making the show so funny. For fans of Barbra, with plenty of knowledge of the icon, this show should be a riot – as long as you can take the loving criticisms and jokes about her controlling nature.
The idea behind Buyer & Cellar is introduced right at the start – inspired by a book by Streisand herself titled ‘My Passion for Design’ in which an entire shopping mall was created in her home in Malibu. This shopping mall is the setting, and where the ‘hero’ of the story – Alex Moore – is eventually employed to keep check of the dresses, dolls and frozen yoghurt machine, as well as entertain the lady of the house.
The story is driven by the unlikely friendship the two strike up, which results in many funny scenes from recreating Gypsy, to eating frozen yoghurt and covering it in sprinkles, to negotiating the price of a doll that Streisand already owns. Adding to this are the reactions from the people around Alex such as his boyfriend who spews both sycophantic and bitchy comments about the icon. This split between adoration and attacks on the star stays throughout and is where much of the humour derives from.
Michael Urie is the star of this one-man show (and is probably best known to many as starring in Ugly Betty); he performs with plenty of exuberance, wit and animation to keep you hooked and laughing throughout. He manages to maintain his energy throughout the show, running around the stage and adopting the voices of everyone from the boyfriend, to Streisand’s husband and Streisand herself. You have to admire his ability to do this, and never make the show drag for a minute. As the first line of this review suggests, this is fun, camp entertainment and it’s understandable why Buyer & Cellar was a hit in New York.