Savoy Theatre, London, until April 13
I’ve no doubt that if Broadway weren’t in such a mess – dismal ticket sales, powerful unions and bruised producers – John Benjamin Hickey’s revival of Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite would now be playing on the other side of the Atlantic. Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker have, however, just opened the show in London where the weak pound against the dollar has meant they have no shortage of fellow Americans to come and see them.
The husband and wife team were deemed sufficiently starry by the first-nighters to be worthy of a round of applause for simply walking out onto the stage. The play seems to engender politeness if not courtliness, but then there are few if any playwrights quite as genteel and safe as Simon. Rest assured this is a show you could take even the most hyper-sensitive of maiden aunts to without any conceivable repercussions.
Theatre-goers of a certain age will almost certainly have vague memories of the film adaptation that starred Walter Matthau playing a lecherous producer, a cheating husband and an overwrought father who all take turns staying in the same New York hotel suite. Broderick attempting the same feat of playing multiple roles is unfortunately always Broderick – amiable and good company, for all that – but top marks to Tom Watson for kitting him out in a variety of wigs that at least prove themselves capable of running the whole gamut of emotions from A to Z.
In contrast to the film, where Matthau played against a number of different actresses, it’s always Jessica Parker that Broderick plays against – as an ambitious actress, a cheated-on wife and an exasperated mother – and she at least rings some changes in her acting styles in the different episodes. Given she’s his wife, I have to say that there is startlingly little on-stage chemistry between them.
Still, John Lee Beatty’s set and Jane Greenwood’s costumes are both magnificent and it seems unlikely there is any better-looking, if maybe also more banal, show now playing in the capital. It makes for at best gentle titters rather than belly laughs, but, in its rather old-fashioned and over-mannered way, it all feels pleasantly comforting in a world that’s growing increasingly hysterical.