Matthew Broderick Is Celebrating His 25-Year Anniversary With Sarah Jessica Parker By Checking In To “Plaza Suite”

Matthew Broderick
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CUFFLINKS: Plaza Hotel
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Matthew Broderick
Sarah Jessica Parker and
Mathew Broderick in “Plaza Suite”

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Matthew Broderick was in real danger of losing himself these past few years. The culprit? His couch.

For a man who’s quite literally always moving — from plays to television series to films — he was at a loss as to what else to do during the COVID-19 lockdown, so he turned to the tube. A mistake Matthew, a really big mistake.

“I watched a lot of TV — more than I ever had before. Every Scandinavian murder, anybody cut in half on a bridge, anything about French spies, I was watching. I’m now very good at reading subtitles,” the 59-year-old actor confides during our Zoom chat, which happens to be just a few days before his 60th birthday. “Anyway,” he continues, “what I learned about myself is that I have to try something new every now and again, that I literally have to get out there and work, or I actually do seem to be quite capable of turning into a slug. I’m glad that [this phase of life] seems to be ending, because I think eventually, I would have probably just disappeared. I would have become vapor and just been gone.”

I mean, of course he’s joking, but who could blame him for wanting to get back to regularly programmed life? Or, for that matter, the Great White Way — which is where the storied actor was meant to be heading with wife Sarah Jessica Parker when the City That Never Sleeps took one heck of a power nap.

Let’s rewind to 2019, shall we? After making his London West End debut in Kenneth Lonergan’s The Starry Messenger, Broderick was immediately ready to get back on stage, and to Broadway in particular; at the time, it had been four years since he performed there in A.R. Gurney’s Sylvia. With very minimal urging on the part of friend and director John Benjamin Hickey, he and Parker agreed to appear in the first-ever revival of the late Neil Simon’s classic comedy, Plaza Suite.

And they couldn’t have picked a better project. When the play — a piercing look at love and marriage set in suite 719 of iconic Manhattan luxury landmark The Plaza Hotel — first opened on Broadway in 1968, it ran for nearly three years. Simon and star Maureen Stapleton were nominated for Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, respectively, while director Mike Nichols won for Best Direction of a Play. Plaza Suite was so popular, in fact, that it found its way to the silver screen in 1971, starring Stapleton, Walter Matthau, Barbara Harris, and Lee Grant; a 1987 TV movie adaptation starring Carol Burnett, Hal Holbrook, and Dabney Coleman followed.

Those are some big shoes to fill, but Broderick, a two-time Tony Award winner; and Parker, a two-time Emmy Award winner, were just the stars to fill them (and hers were probably Manolos). Their initial two-week, completely sold-out run at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre in February 2020 earned rave reviews, building buzz for the March previews and April 2020 opening date in New York to come when then-Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a mandate that all theaters were to be closed. And you all know how the rest of this story goes.

So yeah, it’s time for life to resume its normal schedule, for Broadway to come back in general, and for this play in particular to premiere. Not the least because Broderick has been rehearsing for more than two years and he’s beginning to think there is such a thing as being over-prepared.
“It’s certainly a very unusual way to prepare for something, to stop for two years right in the middle,” he agrees. “It’s been a process. We didn’t know how long we needed to get started again, so we chose to rehearse for four weeks this time around, and that seemed to work out. We were supposed to be rehearsing during the day and just doing it for audiences at night, but we just sort of stopped. [Sarah Jessica and I] did this play in Boston two years ago, so we’re not trying to reinvent it; we’re basically trying to get back to what we were up to then. It’s been an improvisation to figure out how to rehearse a play that you’ve already rehearsed.”

To be sure, it’s a challenge to keep things fresh — but at least he knows he’s not in this alone — fellow shows like The Music Man and Birthday Candles were postponed, while others like Waitress and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? simply never reopened. “There’s that danger of things getting stale, but maybe [the break] is a good thing, because you don’t have to worry about lines so much; you’ve done a lot of the grunt work. I guess there are other plays that are going through this right now, too, that stopped in the middle. I don’t know, it’s an experiment,” he notes.

Luckily, it didn’t take much to get Plaza Suite up and running again. Furniture, covered by blankets, part of the forlorn landscape at the Hudson Theatre, was dusted off, lightbulbs were replaced, and it was finally time for the show to go on — surprisingly, with its original cast and crew, including all the designers as well as each and every understudy — fully accounted for. This includes the Tony Award–winning dream team of director Hickey, set designer John Lee Beatty, costume designer Jane Greenwood, lighting designer Brian MacDevitt, sound designer Scott Lehrer, incidental music man Marc Shaiman, and casting director Jim Carnahan, as well as cast members Danny Bolero, Molly Ranson, and Eric Wiegand.

Matthew Broderick
SUIT, SHIRT & TIE: Louis Vuitton Men’s
Louis Vuitton Men’s
SHOES: Christian Louboutin

Photo Credit: Scott McDermott

It’s a testament to the play that each crew member returned, perhaps in part due to Plaza Suite’s poignancy: this opening marks the first revival of a play by Pulitzer Prize winner Neil Simon following his passing last August at the age of 91; Broderick’s return to Simon’s world, having won his first Tony for creating the role of Eugene Jerome in Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs, followed by its sequel, Biloxi Blues; and, last but equally significant, the first time he and Parker have shared a stage since the 1995 revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

And so, at long last previews of the play finally began on February 25, and opening night went off without a hitch on March 28. And make no mistake, it’s definitely a decadent treat to watch the real-life couple bring their comedic best to the stage, throwing themselves with studious abandon into the roles of Karen and Sam, a longtime married pair who may be ending their hotel stay earlier than expected; former high school sweethearts Muriel and Jesse, who seem destined for a residency; and mother and father of the bride Norma and Roy, who can’t seem to get their daughter to even check out of the bathroom.

Luckily, none of the complications endured by their on-stage characters transpired in real life for Broderick and Parker during the making of Plaza Suite. Quite the opposite, in fact, which is especially telling to the strength of their relationship given that they lived together in lockdown for the better part of a year and worked together. Which, in itself, has all the makings of a classic Broadway farce.

“I remember thinking, Oh, gosh, we’re going to work together and live together. What will that be like? Not realizing that the next two years would be life, [but] just with your family. So it was an experiment, and luckily, that aspect has been quite easy. We don’t seem to get on each other’s nerves any more than usual, so that’s good,” Broderick jokes.

So how did they find that balance? “I don’t know,” he admits. “But I think we try to respect each other’s privacy and give each other space. It’s not like I finish a show and would think to ask a million questions about the kids’ school. We try not to overwhelm one another. Things can be very intense if you don’t. Instinctively, I think we try to give one another space to get away, to do our own things during the day. Whether it’s going to the gym, or a bike ride, whatever it is — just taking some time to be on your own.”

For the record, that applies to all co-stars —not just his wife. Broderick references his 2001 Broadway stint in The Producers with close friend Nathan Lane, recalling, “I remember he was like, ‘No, don’t have dinner with me, it’s going to be too much. We need to not have food and the show.’ So you try to limit a little of the claustrophobia, have a little space.” Similarly, it’s rule No. 1 to never, ever criticize a co-star’s acting (especially if, ahem, said co-star happens to be your wife). “It’s a big no-no to tell another actor what you think they should do. It does happen — in films, particularly, a big star can tell somebody else what to do — but the old-school approach is, if I don’t like something somebody is doing, I ought to tell the director and the director ought to decide. In this case, the director is a close friend of mine and the actor is my wife, so I can’t tell him, ‘Will you tell her to stop doing this?’ Luckily, she’s wonderful in the play, so I don’t have anything where I’m like, ‘I wish she weren’t doing this.’” I must make a face, because he insists, “Really, I swear to God, it’s been a delight.”

The harder part, Broderick says, is being unable to gauge the audience’s reaction. Is that a golf clap? Are they really laughing, or is that a polite chuckle, muffled by a face covering? It’s a brave new world for Broadway, one that, at least at the time of this interview, is dominated by a sea of face mask-clad patrons. But does it work for the actors who are energized by the audience reaction?

“It feels really good to be in a theater, but it’s really strange to look out and see all those masks. We bow at the end, and I can’t be absolutely certain that people like me or not,” he confides, continuing, “There’s screaming and clapping, but still, it could be a dead face clap.”

There are further differences, too, mandated by health and safety precautions that make the entire experience less interactive, and ever-so-slightly less enjoyable. Says Broderick, “It’s not like I like signing autographs or stuff like that, but usually you sort of see the audience after when you come out and this time, we don’t do that. It’s peculiar to do the play and then immediately go into my little cave instead of seeing friends backstage; they aren’t allowed there anymore. The only time I see anybody is if I say, ‘Come meet me at a restaurant.’ The social aspect of it all is very peculiar.”

That being said, in this new normal, he still makes sure to harness the energy that had previously been sucked into the vortex of his couch each and every night that he’s on stage, because despite having to navigate these new restrictions, to him, the thrill of performing live is just as electrifying as ever. And he will never stop being grateful for it.

“It feels amazing,” he says. “And no matter what, it sure is nice to be back.”

Matthew Broderick
Broderick is starring on Broadway with his real-life wife, Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah Jessica Parker

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Before the first preview of any theater show, Matthew Broderick does this thing. I picture him walking to the edge of the stage, the theater dark, one spotlight just on him. He closes his eyes, and in his mind’s eye, the room is filled with applause. (And then I weirdly picture Ryan Reynolds singing “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” from Yentl.) To be honest, I don’t know what Broderick does — though he claims not to be superstitious, he’s keeping this “strange, quiet routine” to himself. What he can say is that, to him, the stage is a sacred space, and before every performance, to get in the zone, he likes to “be alone or have quiet time on stage, to sit in one of the chairs and try to feel like you’re a part of it, like it’s your home.” He adds, “I do like to take a little moment to myself, to the side of the stage because I’m so nervous before a first preview.”

Mind blown! Even though he’s been a proper thespian for more than two-thirds of his life — appearing in his first play, On Valentine’s Day, opposite his father, James, in 1979, at age 17 — and has two Tony Awards to his name, he still admits to nerves. It makes him so dang relatable.

My takeaway here is that theater is truly a deep and lifelong love for the native New Yorker, who has also starred in nearly 30 productions like the smash Broadway hit, It’s Only a Play, opposite his frequent co-star Nathan Lane; the award-winning Broadway run of Nice Work If You Can Get It; the Broadway production of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple; and Shining City at the Off-Broadway Irish Repertory Theatre, for which he earned an Obie Award.

“The theater is such a traditional place, that you can’t help but feel it when you’re there. It’s incredibly special to start a play on Broadway, hear the music start, see the lights go down in the house, and the audience make a sound like they’re excited to be there — particularly now.” He speaks as a fan as well, assuring me that, no matter what side of the stage he’s on, it’s the right side. [In case enquiring minds want to know, most recently, he really enjoyed Just for Us at the Off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre.]

But obviously, anyone who has ever seen the 1986 comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (and shame on you if you haven’t!) is aware that Broderick doesn’t limit himself to theater alone. His film credits include Glory, You Can Count on Me, War Games, Disney’s The Lion King as the adult voice of Simba, Tower Heist, Godzilla, Then She Found Me, The Stepford Wives, Inspector Gadget, To Dust, Rules Don’t Apply, and the award-winning Manchester by the Sea. His most recent television project was 2019’s Daybreak, for Netflix; others include Fox’s live musical event A Christmas Story Live!, Modern Family, 30 Rock, and the TNT production of David Mamet’s A Life in the Theater, for which he received an Emmy nomination.

Matthew Broderick
TROUSERS: Paul Smith
WATCH: Grand Seiko
SOCKS: Corgi

Photo Credit: Scott McDermott

I want him to correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel that — despite his crossover ability — his heart is truly with Broadway first. But it isn’t his heart that dictates his feelings, as his very thoughtful answer conveys.

“I started out with movies and plays at the same time when I was 19, and I loved both. I always wanted to try to do both, but lately it’s been more stage the last many years. There are things about both film or TV and plays that I like. It’s not that one is better, but the stage is uniquely your own if you’re the actor — at some point, it’s just you. With a film, there’s always a director looking at you and saying, ‘Try it again and do it this way,’ which is also great and helpful, but in a play, once you step out, you’re driving. You still have to be confined by what the director has created, the designers, and of course, the writer, but you really kind of own it while you’re doing it. And you have a feeling afterward of actually playing the whole part, which in film is so spread out. Maybe a few days of the whole shoot you might feel satisfied, but many days are I went to the refrigerator and got the juice out and called the garage for the car and that was the day [of] shooting. It’s a marathon, a spread-out thing, whereas a play is energy all at once; there’s no waiting around,” he explains, adding, “Also, getting the feedback from the audience can tell you if they’re bored or laughing. You get that on a film, too, but it’s the director or a couple of other people who are hanging around the video monitor: They become your audience. Billy Wilder said, ‘Everyone in the audience is an idiot, but taken together, they’re genius.’ Audiences are very smart. They know how something should go.”

But just because he prefers being on stage, he (obviously) isn’t letting the other aspects of his career slack. Next up, he has Netflix’s opioid drama Painkiller, opposite Uzo Aduba, and the romantic comedy She Came to Me from writer-director Rebecca Miller. And possibly, in the near future, he’ll be able to merge these two mediums with Plaza Suite as he did with The Producers, reprising his 2001 Broadway role in the 2005 movie. Although there are no current plans to remake the 1971 film version of said play, he does say he’s heard rumors about shooting a live version in the future.

Speaking of Plaza Suite again, well, after the limited engagement closes (tickets are currently on sale through June 26), he’s taking a well-deserved vacation (“Now that I’ve spent the last two years lying around, it’s time to lie around again,” he jokes). And not a staycation, either — which, for the record, he says he has never done — not even at the Plaza for “research.”

I am baffled by this, but he is pragmatic. “Living in New York, I don’t stay overnight in hotels. I have a house.”

“Staycation,” I say. “It’s called a staycation.”

“Well,” he returns, “I did stay at the Carlyle once, right after Sarah Jessica and I got married.”

Matthew Broderick
SHIRT: Hermès
JEANS: Todd Snyder
WATCH: Grand Seiko
SHOES: John Lobb
SOCKS: Bresciani

Photo Credit: Scott McDermott

For the record, that was one night only — the evening of May 19, 1997, to be exact — the night of his wedding, 25 years ago this May.
To commemorate that momentous day, the couple will be together, on stage. In its own way, this is not only romantic, but also downright poetic.
So… what does one have to do to reach such a milestone? Does he bring Parker roses once a week? Tell her she’s beautiful every day? “I don’t, but I should,” he declares, before noting, “Honestly, you can’t look at the big picture. You have to take it day by day, moment to moment. On a matinee day, I have two shows coming up and if I think from the beginning, ‘Oh my God, I have to do this twice,’ I’d get worried. If I just work on each scene, it flows. Really, I don’t know what the secret is, but I wish I did.” Still, he does have a few tips. “Obviously, you have to be friends. You have to want the same things and to be able to communicate and to hopefully have a few laughs. Humor, they say, is key.”

Well, whatever he’s doing, it’s working, because these two are still laughing — on stage and off — a quarter of a century later. They’ve built a wonderful life in the Big Apple with their three, incredible kids: son James Wilkie, 19, and twin daughters Marion Loretta and Tabitha Hodge, 12. And it’s no surprise that precious time with his family is the most important thing of all, in his eyes. “[Spending] time with dear ones; to have time to spend with the people you love and who love you, that’s the greatest luxury,” he says.

I remind him that he’s got to have seen the silver lining in the past two years in that case, with his whole crew under one roof. “It was very nice to spend so much time with my kids,” he admits. “I’ve never been home this much, so there’s been some good about it. There’s something nice about slowing down and having time with your loved ones.”

“And also, not turning into vapor,” I say.

He nods. “I’m still solid. I’m still here — and I’m grateful. I just encourage everybody to get back into life now, because who knows when that next freaking variant is coming. If we’re having a nice break now, let’s enjoy it, and spend it at the theater — hopefully at our show. I’m just kidding. Spend it how you want. Go outside, see things. Don’t just sit inside watching lengthy TV shows about murder. That’s fun, too, but now that you can, why don’t you try something else?”

I couldn’t agree more. But then again, I’m planning a staycation — and my first stop is an actual Plaza suite.

Matthew Broderick
SUIT, SHIRT & TIE: Louis Vuitton Men’s
SHOES: Christian Louboutin
SOCKS: Bresciani
WATCH: Grand Seiko

Photo Credit: Scott McDermott