Michael Urie offers Streisand treasures in ‘Cellar’ 

It’s completely fine with Michael Urie if Barbra Streisand never sees him play Barbra Streisand, which he does in “Buyer & Cellar” opening next week at the Curran Theatre.

“I don’t want her to see it and have it hurt her feelings, though I don’t think it would necessarily,” he says.

His is not a drag act or an impersonation. It’s more like a suggestion of Barbra. He takes her well-known vocal inflections, personality tics and signature gestures and, with the aid of an inventive and extremely funny script by Jonathan Tolins (“The Twilight of the Golds”), creates this character called Barbra Streisand. He also plays a handful of other characters including a Barbra-obsessed gay man, a gruff business manager, and Alex More, an out-of-work actor.

More is hired to manage the mall of shops Streisand has built in the cellar of one of her Malibu homes to house her collections of art, tchotchkes and career memorabilia. The mall is real, the premise is fake, as Urie stresses emphatically in the opening moments of the play, lest litigation befall the production.

Fortunately, there have been no cease-and-desist orders from Malibu since the play started rehearsals in early 2013.

“It’s been a long damn time,” Urie says of his stint in the just-closed off-Broadway run and current tour.

He has had breaks and appreciated other actors including Barrett Foa (“NCIS: Los Angeles”) donning the shopkeeper’s apron Alex wears.

“I like being part of its legacy,” Urie says. “Soon it will have life at theaters all over the place. The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego is definitely doing it, and the George Street Playhouse in New Jersey, too.”

The current tour leaves The City for Dallas and then finishes in Toronto, by which time Urie, best known as Marc St. James from four seasons of ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” will be ready for new, hopefully less solitary, challenges.

“It was really cool to play that character, one that changed so much,” he says, adding, “I do miss other actors a lot. There’s just such a fun camaraderie in that. Still, it is also fun to have a new co-star every night.”

He’s referring to “Buyer & Cellar” audiences.

“It really does feel like every night when I walk on stage I’m gonna have a whole new group of people and who knows what I’m gonna get.”

Could he see himself going back into the solitary cellar for some future production? “Yeah. The revival,” he laughs, “but where Barbra plays herself.”


Buyer & Cellar

Where: Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., S.F.

When: Opens Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, closes Aug. 31

Tickets: $50 to $100

Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com

About The Author

Robert Sokol

Robert Sokol

Robert Sokol is the editor at BAYSTAGES, the creative director at VIA MEDIA, and a lifelong arts supporter. Diva wrangler, cinefiler, and occasional saloon singer, he has been touching showbiz all his life. (So far no restraining orders have been issued!)... more
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