Theatre Aspen goes underground with Barbra Streisand in ‘Buyer & Cellar’
If You Go …
What: ‘Buyer & Cellar,’ presented by Theatre Aspen
Where: Hurst Theatre, Rio Grande Park
When: July 7 through Aug. 19
How much: $29-$100
Tickets: www.theatreaspen.org; 970-300-4474
Part absurd truth, part fiction, the one-man show “Buyer & Cellar” takes place in the decadent mini-mall that Barbra Streisand built for herself in the basement of her California mansion.
The luxurious lair is the factual part of the story, inspired by Streisand’s 2010 coffee table book “My Passion for Design,” which details her private water wheel and frozen yogurt bar, antique shop, doll collection and vintage clothing boutique. The creative license comes in with the character Alex More, an out-of-work Los Angeles actor who lands a job in Streisand’s subterranean mall.
Theatre Aspen’s production of the acclaimed Off-Broadway comedy opens Saturday night, with three preview performances running today through a Saturday matinee.
Surreal as the setting is, the role of a jaunty young actor clawing his way cheerfully into the industry isn’t much of a stretch for Jeffrey Correia, the guy carrying “Buyer & Cellar.”
“Let’s face it: Alex is me, man,” Correia said with a laugh before a technical rehearsal this week.
The play is Correia’s third production with Theatre Aspen, following a memorable turn as Princeton in 2012’s “Avenue Q” and his local debut in 2011’s “Becky’s New Car,” in which he performed alongside his mother, Sandy Duncan. Over the past three years, Correia has been working in theatrical productions on Disney cruise ships.
Correia got the Aspen part in March and immediately got to work on preparing for the one-man show. He’s been collaborating closely with director Maurice LaMee and stage manager Vernon Willet in Aspen over the past few weeks. As he researched the role, Correia also hunted down a copy of Streisand’s design book at a Manhattan Barnes & Noble.
“It’s the most surreal, weird, amazing thing,” he said. “She is so detail-oriented and everything is thought out to the nth degree. But it’s all through this weird lens of no financial constraints, and all the time she wants and the most talented people in the world doing it for her. Her house is bananas.”
He was a self-proclaimed “Barbra novice” when he was cast for the one-man show. Correia knew the songs everyone knows and had seen a handful of Streisand movies but had never gone deep on the legendary EGOT-winner’s song, stage and screen career. Since arriving in Aspen he’s remedied that with an intense immersion in all things Streisand, accompanied by Juilliard student and 2016 Theatre Aspen apprentice Kyle Weiler.
“We’ve been watching a Barbra marathon, and it’s cool because I’ve gotten to fall in love with Barbra over the last few weeks I’ve been here,” Correia said. “She is a unique, extremely talented woman. And it’s interesting to get to know her in this weird way and then get to translate who she is in this piece through my own lens.”
The Aspen production makes use of projections to bring Streisand and others into the basement with Alex — in all, Correia inhabits seven characters (eight if you count two lines as Oprah Winfrey). Fun as it is, Correia said, shouldering a one-man show is a daunting challenge.
“This is easily the most white-knuckle terrifying thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he said. “But it’s also probably the most exciting and rewarding.”
In rehearsals, Correia has been aiming to find the emotional core of “Buyer & Cellar” amid its weird whimsy and celebrity excess.
“The trap of this play is that it can be cute,” he said. “I want people to have a good time — it’s such a funny show — but (LaMee) and I have put in a lot of effort to make sure that by the end of it there’s a real heart to this piece. It’s about falling in love, it’s about demanding respect for yourself and what really matters in this world. So if people can leave with a smile on their face and that message, then I’ve done my job.”
Correia is hopeful that Streisand might come check out “Buyer & Cellar” on a swing through Aspen this summer. Or, perhaps more appropriately, that one of her assistants will.
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