NEW YORK - Michael Urie is finally getting out of the cellar - and hitting the road.
The former "Ugly Betty" star will kick off a mini North American tour with Jonathan Tolins' utterly charming and often wacky one-man show "Buyer & Cellar." The tour has stops lined up in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Toronto.
But New Yorkers have no fear: The show isn't closing its off-Broadway doors. Urie, whose run ends March 16, will be replaced starting March 18 by Broadway veteran Christopher J. Hanke at the play's home at the Barrow Street Theatre.
"I know the show will be in very good hands," Urie said during a joint interview Wednesday, turning to his fellow actor. "I'll show you the ropes. I'll show you where you can keep your lunch. I'll show you how to clock in."
"I'm excited," said Hanke, whose Broadway credits include "Rent" and "Cry-Baby," and who originated the role of Bud Frump in the Daniel Radcliffe-led revival of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." He also had a recurring role on "Big Love."
Urie recently starred in the celebrated off-Broadway revivals of "Angels in America" and "The Cherry Orchard" and also "How to Succeed in Business," appropriately taking over the role of Bud Frump from Hanke. Now Hanke is replacing him.
Both men will be playing the struggling actor Alex Moore, who lands a job as a clerk in an underground mall of quaint shops. The weird part is that the mall is part of Barbra Streisand's estate and only she goes down there to shop.
Moore, employed to dust and watch over Streisand's endless amounts of expensive stuff, has a fraught tango with the fictional Babs, eventually teasing out questions about celebrity, materialism and fame.
"It will be a hard transition to not be doing it every day," said Urie, who will have done more than 360 performances. "But I am thrilled to see it continue and be its own thing with a new voice. So I'm actually partially fatigued and ready for a break but happy to know that it's not ending with me."
The play made its debut in April 2013 at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and transferred to the Barrow Street Theatre in June. It was cheered by critics and recouped its initial investment, an unusual thing for an off-Broadway show.
"I think it will be easy to put my own stamp on it because he has already mined the field," Hanke said. "He's already created the path of jokes and the rhythms, and so it's easy for me actually to go, 'OK, this is where I'm going in the woods."'
Urie will take the show to Chicago's Broadway Playhouse from May 6-June 15 and then it makes stops at Washington D.C.'s Harman Center for the Arts from June 20-June 29, Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum between July 9-Aug. 17 and Toronto's Panasonic Theatre from Nov. 12-30, with additional cities to be announced shortly.
Streisand, for the record, has not been to see the show in New York - as far as Urie knows. "I hope she comes to see you," Urie said to Hanke, who temporarily blanched. "I hope she sees you first. I don't want that pressure."
The men, both of whom happen to have been raised in Texas, met while Hanke was in "Hair" in Central Park and Urie was in the audience. During the final song "Let the Sun Shine In" Hanke urged Urie to get up onstage and dance.
When producers of "How to Succeed in Business" came to Hanke after he'd been in the show for a year and asked him to guess who would be replacing him, Hanke recalls replying: "It better be Michael Urie."
Both men wonder what will happen down the road if they find each other in the same city again, both laying claim to the same character. Might there be a rip in the space-time continuum?
"If and when Christopher hits 360 performances and we meet, the world will end," Urie insisted. "I don't see how it could possibly continue."
To which Hanke replied: "Barbra Streisand's head will explode."
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