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Ryan James Miller

By BERNIE BELLAN
The Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s final show of the season is an off-Broadway hit titled “Buyer & Cellar”, starring well-known Winnipeg actor and comedian Ryan James Miller (of the sketch comedy troupe, “Hot Thespian Action”.)


“Alex More is an out of work actor who lands a unique job – a shopkeeper in Barbra Streisand’s underground mall on her private Malibu estate. Alex spends most of his days alone, surrounded by the megastar’s antique collection. But when ‘Babs’ drops in for a visit one day, Alex’s life is changed forever.”
During the course of the one hour and 45 minute play, Miller plays six different parts, including the aforementioned Alex and Babs herself. At the very beginning of the play, however, he warns the audience that if anyone was expecting him actually to impersonate Streisand singing, they were sadly mistaken. Instead, each time he reverts to the character of Barbra Streisand, he mimics a gentle flick of one of her famous bangs and adopts a somewhat bemused tone, as she condescends to the star-struck Alex.

The premise is quite brilliant. Here we have an out-of-work gay actor in Los Angeles who inadvertently ends up working for one of the two women in the world most worshiped by gay men. (The other, as Alex explains, is Judy Garland.)
Anyone who has read anything about Barbra Streisand is aware what a control freak she is. During the course of the play, she’s somewhat defensive at times when she converses with Alex. One can’t help but wonder what it must be like to be so utterly famous - and while the play is predominantly a comedy, there are many moments of real pathos.
Alex himself is in a relationship with another actor, Barry who, while honestly fascinated at Alex’s luck in landing what must be a fantasy dream job for a gay unemployed actor, is resentful of Alex’s good fortune.
Other characters played by Miller include Streisand’s officious housekeeper, Sharon, and James Brolin (in a one-time appearance when he descends into the basment mall for a frozen yogurt in an utterly hilarious scene during which Alex fawns all over Brolin. As Alex describes him, both Brolin and Elliot Gould were “Mr. Streisand”.) Miller also briefly plays an exasperated film director, who is all too used to having to deal with Barbra’s shenanigans.
There are so many references to pop culture in the show, however, that only a true TV and movie addict could get them all. (When’s the last time you heard a mention of the TV show “Hazel”, for instance? Would anyone under 60 get that?)
At an hour and 45 minutes, as a one-man show, “Buyer & Cellar” does drag at times. As much as Miller is absolutely brilliant in his many roles, there are some scenes that do go on too long. Toward the end of the show, Alex has convinced Streisand that she’d be perfect in the part of Gypsy Rose Lee in a film re-make of “Gypsy”. While this re-imagining of Streisand’s fascination with the character of Gypsy Rose Lee is based on truth, it ends up being a joke that runs too long.
Still, as one of the world’s most famously neurotic stars, even as she ages into her mid-70s, it seems that baby boomers just can’t get enough of Barbra Streisand. Apparently the diva herself was prepared to go see the show when it ran in Los Angeles two years ago, but changed her mind and didn’t attend. As much as Streisand has inevitably let herself become the butt of too many jokes as a result of her outsize ego, as the play suggests in some very poignant scenes, she is still a very sensitive individual.
And, as so many audience members on opening night remarked: “How did he (Miller) learn all those lines and recite them without a hitch? What a talent!”

Directed by Kayla Gordon, “Buyer & Cellar”  runs through May 15. All performances will be at the Berney Theatre. For tickets and show times visit the WJT website at www.wjt.ca or call 204-477-7515.
To watch a clip of Ryan James Miller in “Buyer & Cellar”, go to http://jewishpostandnews.ca/categories-media/73-entertainment/200-ryan-james-milller-in-wjt-s-buyer-cellar

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