By Denny Patterson
The hit Broadway play Buyer & Cellar comes to South Florida! An outrageous one-man comedy about the price of fame, the cost of things, and the oddest of jobs, Buyer & Cellar will play at Island City Stage Nov. 1 – Dec. 2. Also making a South Florida debut is the show’s one and only actor, Matthew Buffalo. Matthew moved to Fort Lauderdale with his husband three years ago and is an acting professor at the New World School of Arts in Miami. As for his theatrical background, it varies. He has performed on the national tour of Fosse and Spirit of the Dance, held roles at the Utah Shakespearean Festival, and danced with the New York Baroque Dance Company. Some of his favorite and most memorable roles include Smudge in Forever Plaid, Max in Lend Me a Tenor, and the Cat in the Hat in Seussical. I had the pleasure of chatting more with Matthew about his upcoming performance at Island City Stage.
For those who are not familiar with the show, why don’t you start off by telling me a little bit more about Buyer & Cellar. What is the show about?
Buyer & Cellar is a one-man comedy that tells the story of Alex More, a struggling actor who takes a job working in the street-inspired basement mall of icon, Barbra Streisand. One day, Streisand herself comes down to peruse the shelves and an unlikely and hilarious friendship begins.
Oh wow, I did not know this was a one-man show.
Yes. Alex is the main role, but since this is a one-man show, I take on six different characters.
This is your first Island City Production, correct?
Yes, this is my first production at Island City Stage, and to do a one-man show as my inaugural production with them is a special treat!
What made you audition for Buyer & Cellar?
Buyer & Cellar is an incredibly well written play, and I always thought it would be a good show for me. I jumped when the opportunity presented itself to me.
How are you mentally preparing yourself for this role?
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. If I am well prepared for any show I do, it alleviates most of my mental stress.
What can audiences expect?
Audiences can expect a unique view into Barbra Streisand’s home and the world she has created within it. Oh, and hopefully laugh at the ridiculousness of the lives of the characters portrayed.
What do you look for in a good audience?
Hmmm, that’s a good question. This show is special because the audience is a character in the show as well. The show centers around Alex telling his story directly to the audience. I mean, I’m not looking for the audience to talk back to me, but their energy feeds into the flow of this show for sure.
Would you say this is the most challenging role you have ever played?
Most challenging role by far! This is my first time tackling a one-man show, playing this many different characters at the same time. This takes talking to myself to a whole new level!
Do you think the OG Barbra Streisand will come and see the show?
She didn’t come see it on Broadway, so I doubt she’ll make it down to Fort Lauderdale!
Where did your passion for theater come from?
I have no idea. I did not come from a theatrical family. I grew up in rural Arkansas with not much theater around me. However, I started singing and acting around the house as far back as I can remember. My mother was a huge supporter of me and my interests. She took me to see the touring companies that came through Little Rock and Memphis. It was our special time together. I just always knew that the work and joy I saw on stage was something I had to do for the rest of my life.
Throughout this entire experience, what has been the number one lesson you have learned thus far?
We are capable of so much more than we sometimes allow ourselves to be.
What do you hope to take away from this experience?
I am excited to share this story with the audience night after night. If they walk away entertained or moved in some way, then I have done my job.
Who are some of your theatrical idols?
Oh my! Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera, Andy Blankenbuehler, Brian Bedford – I could go on and on.
Why do you think theatre and the arts are so important?
Theatre is a place where you can escape from everyday life. It’s a place where the audience can experience other’s joys and heartaches and gain a better understanding of their own in the process. Theatre holds a mirror up to society and can incite change. To me, theatre is life.
What are some upcoming projects we should be on the lookout for? What’s the next big thing for Matthew Buffalo?
I am directing the mainstage musical, In the Heights, at NWSA in December, and directing the New Playwrights Festival, one-act plays written, acted, and designed by NWSA students, there in the spring. So, everyone come visit me in Miami!