There’s a lot to unpick from this camp comedy set in Barbra Streisand’s basement mall (as described in the chunky book she wrote about designing her Malibu estate), which has just opened at Above the Stag.
Streisand certainly has staying power. There is a TV clip from the early 60s where she, as a teenager starting out, sings with the mama of vulnerability, Judy Garland. Seek it out if you haven’t seen it. Two icons, one handing over the baton, one almost afraid to grab it.
Buyer and Cellar imagines a scenario where an unemployed actor, Alex, takes a job looking after the stores and “the customer”. He even has a costume which he refers to disparagingly at various points, and in this world of artificial light and assembled tat from Streisand’s career and impulse purchases, his constant companion is the hum of the frozen yoghurt maker.
Aaron Sidwell brings both Alex and the mysterious Barbra (who at first asks him to “call me Sadie” to life). In Jonathan Tolins’s knowing, bitchy, and amusing script, we get to know his impression of Streisand, with many references to films, relationships and mannerisms to delight the fans.
Sidwell is great, conspiring with the audience, bringing a barely contained excitement and warmth to Alex and a monstrous vulnerability to Barbra. He also nails the supporting characters we meet briefly – gravelly housekeeper Sharon, cynical screenwriter boyfriend Barry (“when we see her Grandmama Rose”), a vain caricature of James Brolin (the 2nd Mr Streisand).
Originally planned to open in March, this one-person play is just the thing to lift the spirits in pandemic times – and I can’t find any fault with the safety measures within both bar and theatre. Distancing is strictly two metres and everything was were friendly and safe.
I don’t believe you have to be a Streisand fan particularly to enjoy this show, but it is clearly a wink and a nudge to her place in gay culture, where “even women” imitate her. Even casual music and movie fans know a song or a film she has appeared in, and have some sense of her mythic meglomania.
Directed by Andrew Beckett and designed by David Shields, Buyer and Cellar benefits from ambient lighting from Stacey Sandford that give a hint of a clinical mall with a sprinkle of stardust, and sound by Andy Hill which evokes the Streisand presence at every turn.
Buyer and Cellar runs until 8 November in the Main House at Above the Stag. Tickets are available from £25 per ticket and can purchased in various bubble formations.
LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to see Buyer and Cellar.
Image credits: PRG Studios for production shots