Whilst the content of Jonathan Tolins’s play Buyer and Cellar is entirely fictional, it is based on a completely wacky truth: acting and singing phenomenon Barbra Streisand has built a street of old fashioned shops in the basement of her house. Streisand shared this bizarre design choice in her 2010 book My Passion for Design, in which she explains the building of her Malibu dream house, and it is from this book that Tolins got the idea for his play. Buyer and Cellar tells the fictional tale of Alex More, an out-of-work actor who is employed to work in Streisand’s shopping mall cellar, and the relationship that forms between him and his famous customer.

The show is side-splittingly hilarious from start to finish. Whilst some of the more specific gags about Streisand’s films and other slightly niche celebrities were only understood by a few members of the audience, for the most part the jokes are absolute crowd-pleasers and sole actor Michael Urie delivers them effortlessly. But the play is not just one long joke about Streisand’s crazy house, the show delivers some real warmth too as Alex and Barbra grow to be more than just employer and employee, and some truly touching moments occur as Alex is let into Barbra’s world and discovers the insecurities which lie behind her desire for perfection.

Urie, who originated the role in New York in 2013, is perfectly cast in this one-man show. Switching easily between playing young and innocent Alex More, and doing a pretty good (and definitely funny!) impersonation of Barbra Streisand, he also plays a cast of other characters including Alex’s Jewish New Yorker boyfriend, and Streisand’s husband, James Brolin. Urie’s tone is so comfortable and familiar that the show feels less like a play and more like a long anecdote. He smiles along with the audience at the cruder jokes, makes sarcastic asides, and glides through the show as if it is all completely improvised, which really makes this totally fantastical story feel believable. There’s always a slight feeling of trepidation before entering a one-man show with so much responsibility in the hands of one actor, but Urie’s relaxed air and immediately discernible knack for comedy makes you trust him from the get go.

A minimalist set paired with simple projected backdrops allows the play to move from Barbra’s various shops to Alex’s flat with ease in the Menier Chocolate Factory’s small, intimate space which is perfect for this performance. A laugh every minute, a touching narrative and a top notch performance makes this an almost perfect light-hearted comedy, and I’m pretty sure that even the harshest Streisand cynic will leave with a soft spot for the Brooklyn broad by the time the show is done.

Buyer and Cellar is playing at Menier Chocolate Factory until 2 May. For tickets and more information, see the Buyer and Cellar website. Photo by Joan Marcus.