Michael Urie talks about Buyer and Cellar and Working for Barbra Streisand

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Michael Urie is finally getting out of the cellar — and hitting the road.

The former “Ugly Betty” star will kick off a mini North American tour with Jonathan Tolins’ critically acclaimed, utterly charming and often wacky one-man show “Buyer & Cellar.” The tour  makes it first stop in Chicago May 6TH!

Alex More has a story to tell. A struggling  gay actor in L.A., Alex takes a job working in the mall in Barbra Streisand‘s Malibu basement. (Yes, she really has a STREET of stores in her basement that display her various collections. She has photos of it in her book My Passion for Design.)

He is employed to watch over the collections  and keep things dusted. One day, the Lady Herself comes downstairs to play. It feels like real bonding in the basement, but will their relationship ever make it upstairs?

BUYER & CELLAR is an outrageous comedy about the price of fame, the cost of things, and the oddest of odd jobs. – The only factual element of Jonathan Tolins’s whimsical fantasy is the actual existence of a subterranean street of shops that Streisand had built in her barn to display her collections.


This is like a Fantasia!” exclaims Michael. “It’s not a real story. Alex is not a real person. And Barbra  Streisand probably DOES NOT have someone working in her basement. This whole story came from Jonathan Tolins imagination!”

Urie talked to us recently about what it’s like playing the fictitious store manager of Babs’s personal shopping mall.

It’s a pretty funny thing for we mortals to imagine. A  street of stores! Although I myself am a collector and have  lots of “stuff”   – I  wish I had a room or shop in my place to display everything!

Do you think the play is kind to her?
URIE: I do. I think there are snipes taken, mostly by Barry (Alex’s boyfriend, voiced by Urie), but I know Jon (Tolins) and I, and the director (Stephen Brackett), took great care in rehearsals to make sure it was fair and kind, and only what we found funny, as opposed to malicious. Barry is mean, and he says mean things, but the opinion of the piece and the narrator is love … with the caveat that having a mall in your basement is funny.


JONATHAN TOLINS (Playwright) is the author of Buyer & Cellar, which was named Best Unique Theatrical Experience by the Off-Broadway Alliance when it premiered at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. He explains,””What you’re laughing at is her need to control and to take herself so seriously. You’re not laughing at someone who’s actually a mess and endangering her life — she’s funny because she wants everything her way.”

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How did you set about portraying Streisand on stage?

Urie: “As I say in the beginning of the play, I’m not going to do an impression. Really good impersonators can be uncanny and really funny impressionists.

I wanted the comedy of Barbra to come out of her behavior and not from gags. So I didn’t want to cross my eyes for instance. I just don’t want to gild the lily when it comes to sharing the fun of her idiosyncrasies. I’m only emulating her. So it’s a few faces here, and a few cadences there, the fingernails. I think what I focus on the most is the rhythms. I really watched her and studied her in Meet the Fockers. It’s a modern Barbra but playful and a bit silly. 

Do you think that you will meet her some time?

Urie:If she ever comes to show I would probably poop my pants! I hope someday that I can meet her. I don’t know what she’s really like. I feel that in private she’s probably more like when she’s acting than when she’s being interviewed. I have the sense that she’s more truthful as an actor. I was able to take gems—the voice and some of the cadences—from some of her interviews, but I kept going back to the movies, because I felt that’s more her.

At the end of the day, she really considers herself an actor more than anything. And it would make sense that she would give the most of private part of herself as an actor.  She’s clever and witty at times in interviews and she makes good points, but she’s not alive and spontaneous, which is what I wanted for this show. She play-acts with my character. I didn’t want the withholding Barbra, because even in the in-depth interviews it feels like she’s withholding. I mean we all do—no offense! It’s still work when you’re being interviewed, whereas acting is more like play.”

michael urie and ryan spahn gay new york

Michael and his partner actor/writer Ryan Spahn have been together 5 and half years.  And he hinted marriage is quite possibly in their cards.”We first met at a karaoke bar in Burbank. I noticed him and thought he was interesting and cute, but Ryan says he doesn’t remember meeting me. Our mutual friend tried to set us up, but I cancelled because a good friend of mine died. He’d had some unlucky dating experiences, so my excuse—my friend died—was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The ball was in my court, I guess, and I never rescheduled. Part of that was me being a flake. Part of it was, I was on TV. I was never a “man-whore,” but I enjoyed dating; I was enjoying the attention of being on Ugly Betty. A year later, a friend mentioned Ryan, and I told her to set something up. She said Ryan wasn’t interested. That’s when I felt bad.

The show moved to New York, and Ryan did, too. We supposedly kept crossing paths, but I didn’t realize it because by this time I didn’t remember what he looked like. It was sort of cruel. One night we were both supposed to meet a mutual friend, and she never showed up, so Ryan and I ended up getting a drink together. Of course, once he finally met me, I was completely irresistible!”

 See more of the couple in OUT MAGAZINE

 EVERYONE is saying this is must see Broadway!  Even if you are not a Barbra fan, you will thoroughly enjoy this show!

Broadway In Chicago presents BUYER & CELLAR, starring Michael Urie.  In Chicago for a limited engagement beginning May 6, 2014 at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place (175 E. Chestnut). Producers Darren Bagert ), Dan Shaheen , Ted Snowdon and Daryl Roth (“Kinky Boots,” “Love Loss and What I Wore”) bring this hilarious new comedy to Chicago.

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Broadway in Chicago – Buyer and Cellar

Michael Urie

Michael Uri