As I mentioned a few weeks ago (in my interview with Trey Gerrald about Buyer & Cellar at Cape May Stage), I adore this show! Jonathan Tolins has written a terrific play. I can't wait to see Nick Cearley, whom I adore, play this role at Bucks County Playhouse next month. Nick had been on my radar for a few years, but it wasn't until he was starring in Bucks County Playhouse's 2013 production of Rocky Horror that I finally got the chance to interview him and the rest of the cast. That production, solidified my admiration for Nick and my love for Bucks County Playhouse.
What a great 360 moment now to interview Nick yet again about another show he's doing at Bucks County Playhouse. Buyer & Cellar is a hilarious play about an underemployed actor working for Barbra Streisand. It will play Bucks County Playhouse (70 South Main Street New Hope, PA 18938) from November 5-26. Click here for tickets!
1. This November you are starring in Bucks County Playhouse's productioin of Jonathan Tolins' outrageous comedy Buyer & Cellar. As someone who has performed at Bucks County Playhouse before (in their 2013 production of Rocky Horror), what do you enjoy most about performing there? Why will Bucks County audiences fall in love with this show? Bucks County Playhouse is one of my favorite places ever to work. The town of New Hope is addictive. The 2013 production of Rocky Horror was actually my first time there and this marks my 6th show there. I did all the Rocky Horrors under Hunter Foster’s brilliance as "Brad," Plaid Tidings directed by Gordon Greenberg, The Skivvies, and A Tribute to Angela Lansbury with Hal Prince and the Dame herself! And now Buyer & Cellar! I was supposed to be "Brad" again this year in Rocky Horror and it conflicted with Little Shop of Horrors so I unfortunately had to withdraw. But, when that was a "thing" my husband joked that for those two months, they were going to change the name of the playhouse to "Nick’s County Playhouse!" hahah.
I have fallen in love with Bucks County and Buyer & Cellar and I think my love for both of those things will be apparent to the audiences who come see our funny little show.
2. Buyer & Cellar is a show you have been performing for almost two years around the country. How do you keep the role of "Alex" and the show fresh for yourself? This is my fifth production of Buyer & Cellar (though because of conflicts, it would be my eighth that I have booked!). I have done the show in Sacramento, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Key West, and unfortunately had to withdraw from Provincetown, Cape May, and Columbia, Maryland.
What helps to keep it fresh is that I actually enjoy telling this story. It isn’t like I am doing a show for the sake of getting the role in a play. It is a story I am in love with telling. And, it is very unique in that it is based on a real place and a real person but the protagonist in which I play and the circumstances are all fiction. And I think that is the perfect marriage of creative writing and real life.
Also, I have been lucky to have a different director with each production I have done. This isn’t a tour by any means, even though, it feels like one sometimes. They have all been stand alone productions that are regional premieres per the theatre I have booked the job. So with that comes a different director and a different set of eyes. It is sort of the actor’s dream to get to take all the information from all the different eyeballs and use everyones opinion. It has further validated when it comes to making choices on stage, there are so many possibilities.
3. What initially made you want to star in this show and how do you feel you have grown in this role as you have performed it over time? I remember when I saw this show in previews with Michael Urie, I said to him afterwards, "Oh, I will do this show." And then I called different theatres I have worked for and not worked for and said, "Please do this show so that I can get my hands on it." Literally, that’s what I did. It is a dream. I think I am different now doing the show as opposed to the first production because I am not thinking about "what comes next?" anymore. It is so in my bones that I just have a ball talking to hundreds of strangers a night and hearing THEM (who really are the other character in the show) react to the circumstances for the first time. It really fuels how I play each moment.
4. What do you relate to most about "Alex"? What is one characteristic of his you wish you had? I relate to a time about 10 years ago when I didn’t know where and how I was going to make ends meet. Working odd jobs. Living week to week. Most actors go through that. The "in-between" times. I have been so lucky the past few years, but it is always a thing with actors, "what’s next?" And this job "Alex" has in the basement of Barbra’s house is his "in-between" time.
More so, I relate to the feeling of doing this show with a sense of loneliness. The show deals with someone who spends a lot of time operating on her own terms and in a world with things and circumstances that are normally not obtainable by the common person going through life. Therefore, she feels very alone operating on that level because it isolates her. The coincidence is that I feel that way when doing a one person show because there isn’t another person or other cast members to talk about your day at work with. I talk to strangers all night in a theatre, just me, it ends, and I am energized and "up" and want to talk about the work day with someone who went through it with me. But there isn’t anyone. So, at Bucks County, luckily, they are pet friendly and Pippa, my 2 year old Brussels Griffon will be in my dressing room to greet me after every performance. She has done every production of Buyer & Cellar with me for these very reasons. And though she is probably tired of hearing the same damn story, it helps me decompress after the show to have the companionship of my little girl.
5. As a result of "Alex" working for Barbra Streisand, tension is created between "Alex" and his boyfriend." As an actor yourself, who's married, but travels a lot for work, how do you deal with the stress/tension this kind of schedule can put on a relationship? On the flip side, what is the most supportive & eye-wetting thing Eric has done for you on one of your opening nights? My husband Eric and I have been together 17 years. Married for four. At this point, he knows the drill. For doing a show at Bucks County, he is also as in love with the city as I am so whenever there's something appropriate I can do at the Playhouse, I always try to make it a priority because I know how much we both like to be there together. It is only about an hour away from where we live and it is a little getaway for us. So he comes down on all weekends. We have even spent weekend vacations in Bucks County when I am not working there. We love it that much.
It is a little more difficult when a plane ride is involved. For example, I just finished Little Shop of Horrors at Portland Center Stage in Oregon. Eric flew out for closing because he dreaded that six hour commute! And then he did a whirlwind travel with me where we flew from there to Chicago overnight so that I could do a Skivvies concert the next day. Then he came to a photo shoot the next morning there and we spent the evening seeing Lauren (my Skivvies co-creator) in her show Wonderful Town at The Goodman Theatre. He was exhausted by it all and I think surprised how easy it is for me to hop around like that.
I remember when Eric came to see me as "Dennis" in All Shook Up for the first time in the first national tour, he had to bring a complete change of clothes because he was so nervous for me, he sweat through his outfit. I think more nervous than I actually was. I love that we are each others cheerleaders. Eric and I went to theatre school together and he graduated two years ahead of me but then decided to go to law school and now he is a lawyer at Lambda Legal. So, though we aren’t in the same business, he has the background to get it and it is easy to talk to him about aspects of my jobs.
6. In Buyer & Cellar, "Alex" actually gets to have a real moment with Barbra. If you could have a few moments alone with Barbra Streisand, what would you talk about? Politics. Especially this week and next week! We have a performance on election night. And though I don’t think Barbra Streisand would ever ever ever ever work on election night, I think she definitely has some opinions that I would like to hear come out of her own mouth in person.
I also am fascinated by OLD Broadway. The Golden Years. What NYC was like when she was becoming a star. I would talk to her about what that was like for sure. The times we live in now are so far removed from how people used to behave even since I started out in NYC, so I want to hear about her trying to make it all those decades ago.
7. Since Buyer & Cellar is centered around Barbra Streisand, how has Barbra influenced you/your career? Well, admittedly, I was not a fan of hers growing up. Similar to how the character of "Alex More" feels about Barbra. However, my mom was a HUGE fan. She knows all the songs, all the movies, had the audio cassette in the car when I was growing up in the 80s. I knew all about Barbra because of my mom. I relate to her being her own business, not succumbing to what other people thought she should do, having a lot of opinions.
8. If you could duet with Barbra Streisand on one of her songs, which song of hers would you want to duet on? If you could have been her opening act on any of her tours, which tour would you have liked to be the opening number for? If you could re-make one of Barbra's movies, with her in it, which movie would you want to re-make? If you could cover one of Barbra's albums, which album would you make? Barbra’s cover of David Bowie’s "Life on Mars" is to be reckoned with and I am obsessed with that song. And her arrangement. So that would most definitely be the song would like to duet with her on.
I would like to have opened for her on her most recent tour because it was only 7 cities!
I would want to be in The Guilt Trip actually. A road trip comedy with Barbra Streisand as my mother would be an absolute hoot. And from what I understand, there was a lot of ad-libbing that occurred and I would love to be able to participate in some good ole fashioned improv with Mrs. S!
The first album I remember really being super familiar with was her Back to Broadway album. So, probably that one because I know her arrangements of every song on that album best. And, it was a staple in my house growing up.
Nick Cearley is one half of the critically acclaimed "undie"-rock comedy duo known as The Skivvies (theskivviesnyc.com), co-created with Lauren Molina. Most recently, he completed five regional premieres of Buyer & Cellar, for which he won Best Performance by CityBeat Cincinnati. Off Broadway: "Puck" in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Pageant: The Musical (Original Cast Album on Jay Records, Drama Desk nom.); and Sex Tips... Broadway/First National Tour: All Shook Up. Fave regional: Twelfth Night (dir. Scott Schwartz), Next to Normal, …Trailer Park, …Spelling Bee, Plaid Tidings (dir. Gordon Greenberg), and The Rocky Horror Show (dir. Hunter Foster). Williamstown Theatre Festival, Bay Street Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company, American Stage Theatre Company, TheatreWorks, New York Stage and Film, York Theatre, Kimmel Center, City Theatre, Eugene O Neill Center, The Smith Center, Berkshire Theatre Group, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Stoneham Theatre, Serenbe Playhouse, Luna Stage, Diversionary Theatre, Rubicon Theatre Company, Alhambra Theatre, Bucks County Playhouse. TV pilots for Fox, WE, and A&E. Instagram/Twitter: @clearlycearley @theskivviesnyc.