Plaza Suite at the Savoy Theatre, London
Sarah Jessica Parker found fame playing a single woman with more on-off relationships than a light switch, but in real life she found her happy ever after long ago as half of one of Hollywood’s most enduring couples.
Married for nearly 30 years to Matthew Broderick, the Sex And The City star and her real Mr Big share a chemistry that lights up the West End stage in this exuberant revival of Neil Simon’s slapstick 1960s comedy.
Plaza Suite, a sort of theatre version of Lenny Henry’s Premier Inn TV commercials (you know the ones, where different people feel at home in the same hotel room), sees three different twosomes check into suite 719 in Manhattan’s iconic Plaza Hotel – with Parker and Broderick playing all six parts.
Couple number one (as Cilla Black would say), are Karen and Sam, attempting to rekindle their marriage on their 23rd anniversary (or 24th, Karen isn’t great at maths) by rebooking their honeymoon suite. Couple two arrive for a dangerous liaison while the third are fretful parents of a cold-footed bride who fears turning into her mother.
Three scenes, two stars, one very swanky suite.
Neil Simon’s signature wisecracks and wordplay embellish every act – his scripts exude Yiddishkeit – but Plaza Suite is not among his greatest hits. It hasn’t aged as gracefully as his first masterpiece, The Odd Couple, or one of his last, Laughter on the 42nd Floor.
It teeters between clownish comedy and dark farce, often leaning on both at once. Broderick’s slap-shtick delivery hinders genuine emotion, particularly in the opening scene when his roving-eyed husband faces a decision that makes or breaks his marriage.
In act two, the suite is home to high school sweethearts Muriel and Jesse. Parker’s bored housewife struggles to resist Broderick’s schmoozy Hollywood playboy in a slightly icky 20-minute retelling of the 1940s song Baby, It’s Cold Outside.
The finale, starring Norma and Roy as frazzled parents facing their daughter’s pre-wedding jitters, delivers the biggest laughs. Broderick’s flamboyance and hammy tone (reminiscent of Cameron’s impression of Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago, in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) steals the stage from his (real) wife as he tries to pry his daughter out the loo and down the aisle.
Plaza Suite might not be one of Simon’s comedic triumphs, but this unique production’s X-factor lies in its headliners rather than humour. Audiences seem only too happy stumping up a wallet-walloping £300 for the best seats to watch two showbiz giants share the stage, following in the footsteps of Jewish couples who have trodden the boards together like George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara and Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.
Little wonder that virtually the entire audience waited excitedly outside the backstage door long after the final curtain to catch a glimpse of the couple.
There’s something special – moving even – about witnessing the genuine connection between two gifted performers who have been married for so long. It brings an authenticity even the most skilled actors cannot fake and provides the secret ingredient that elevates this one-of-a-kind show to must-see status. Like the Plaza Hotel itself, this production deserves a five-star rating.
Watching it will leave you yearning for your own lavish getaway at a posh Manhattan hotel. Or, if your budget is tight after shelling out £600 for a pair of tickets, a cosy night at a Premier Inn.
• Plaza Suite is at the Savoy Theatre, London, until 13 April. For tickets see thesavoytheatre.com/shows/plaza-suite
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