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Buyer and Cellar

Michael Urie in Buyer and Cellar at the Menier Chocolate Factory Michael Urie in Buyer and Cellar at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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The Menier Chocolate Factory scored its first transfer soon after opening in 2004 when its import of Fully Committed from Off-Broadway moved to the Arts Theatre, with its original star Mark Setlock reprising his New York role as an actor working as a basement telephone reservations clerk at a swanky restaurant. (The play was recently revived as part of the Menier’s 10th anniversary celebrations.)

Now the Menier brings to London another dishy and deliciously observant below-stairs comedy from off-Broadway, in which another aspiring actor, this time employed to run the private shopping mall Barbra Streisand has below her Malibu home, is played again by its original New York star Michael Urie.

The mall actually exists – Streisand chronicled it herself in her own 2010 coffee table book My Passion for Design – but the rest is entirely fictionalised. That she goes shopping there for gifts for celebrity visitors, or for late night frozen yoghurt snacks, is in the imagination of playwright Jonathan Tolins. But as played so irresistibly by Urie, you fervently want to believe this really happens. (Ditto the talk of matchmaking Streisand’s gay son Jason Gould with Urie’s character.)

It’s an absolute charmer of a show: a knowingly conspiratorial confessional with a gossipy air that is also full of insight into the loneliness and isolation that both an uber-celebrity and a wannabe actor are seemingly equally prone to – and the sense of kinship they unexpectedly find with each other.

As played with camp flourish by the loveable Urie, best known for TV’s Ugly Betty, the show is hilarious but also moving.

Dates: March 12-May 2, PN March 19

Buyer and Cellar from 29:50 to 45:50

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Verdict
A satirical take on celebrity culture from the inside track: Tolins’ play Twilight of the Golds featured Streisand’s son Jason Gould
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