By Robert Heide
Finally in 2022 it is great to see Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker on a Broadway stage together in Neal Simon’s Plaza Suite which just opened. Plaza Suite is comprised of three one act plays, with the lead actors playing different couples in each play. The couples successively inhabit the same suite at the Plaza Hotel and several actors, playing different characters round out the dramas which are piercing looks at love and marriage. It is a limited run at the Hudson Theatre—141 West 44th Street —until June, 2022, so hurry and get your tickets. This revival of Simon’s play which originally opened up on Broadway way back in 1968 and was made into a movie in 1971 with Walter Matthau and Maureen Stapleton, was scheduled to open March 28, 2020 as announced in the New York Times with a big photo layout of Broderick and Parker. My article in the April, 2020 edition of Westview News, entitled ‘The Big Shutdown on Broadway’ was to have been a review of The Girl from the North Country at the Belasco Theatre then (after initial productions in London and off-Broadway at the Public Theater); that play being the last I saw for two years. The night I saw it, which was its last night, the house was packed. There were many in the audience coughing. Some people seemed to be having breathing problems and the next day, to the worlds’ amazement, all 41 Broadway theaters closed down due to the Covid pandemic, including Plaza Suite and the revival of my friend Edward Albee’s masterwork, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, both of which were in previews.
Now, North Country is back and so are all the big Broadway productions including Plaza Suite starring Greenwich Village’s own ‘Super Couple’ Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker who had two long years to memorize their lines and fine tune their performances. They also seem to have been phenomenally successful. The internet reports that between them they are ‘worth’ over $200 million and that they sold their townhouse on Charles Street, purchased in 2000 for $3 million, just down the block from WestView publisher and editor in chief George Capsis’s house, for $15 million and invested in two buildings on a nearby street turning them into one giant townhouse. They could live anywhere, but everyone is happy that they continue to live in the West Village where Matthew grew up. Sarah came originally from Ohio and the couple met when both were performing in a 1995 Broadway revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
I first met Matthew at a party at my good friend Rochelle Oliver’s place in a large apartment building on the northwest corner of Washington Square. He was a regular at Rochelle’s holiday parties as he lived just upstairs and with his parents James and Patsy Broderick often came downstairs to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s along with other tenants in the building including the great actress Uta Hagen with whom I also studied after my courses with Stella Asdler were finished. Uta, of course, was the founder with her husband Herbert, of the Berghof Studios. Rochelle and fellow actor Carol Goodman, both teachers at the school, often performed in Horton Foote plays and many theater folk like Carol and playwright/screenwriter Foote (he received Academy Awards for screenplays for Tender Mercies, The Trip to Bountiful and To Kill a Mockingbird) and sometimes his children Hallie and Horton Foote Jr. were also present; and as well as a lot of fun, a big roast turkey with all the trimmings could always be counted on. Rochelle, a splendid actress who took over the role of Honey from Mia Dillon on Broadway in Virginia Woolf, had been married to James Patterson who performed in a number of early Harold Pinter plays, and they had a son, John Patterson. Sadly, James, a fine actor, passed away early on as did James Broderick, Matthew’s father, a beloved actor (TV show Family, and films including Alice’s Restaurant, Dog Day Afternoon, The Iceman Cometh) who died of cancer in 1982. The two fatherless boys, John and Matthew, attended the City and Country School in the Village and both attended classes at Berghof Studios. John once acted in my play The Bed when it was presented at Theater for the New City. Matthew became, very quickly, a big star after the release of the movies War Games (1983) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). He was also a muse for Neal Simon playing teenagers in two of the playwright’s early autobiographical plays Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues as well as with Horton Foote, acting in various plays from The Orphans Home Cycle, Valentine’s Day and 1918, the later a 1985 film which included in the cast Rochelle Oliver and Horton Foote, Jr., depicting the effects of the 1918 pandemic on the inhabitants of a small town in Texas. Harvey Fierstein cast Matthew in his 1981 play Torch Song Trilogy and in the movie version in 1988 which also starred Fierstein and Anne Bancroft.
At one of Rochelle’s holiday parties the great actor Fritz Weaver showed up and, it seems, it was love at first sight. Soon the couple moved to Fritz’s rambling Upper West Side apartment and it was there they were married in 1997, the same year Matthew wed Sarah Jessica. They were part of Fritz and Rochelle’s wedding uptown where my picture was taken with the strikingly handsome Matthew. After a few glasses of champagne, (a case was sent by Uta Hagen) Matthew had to rush off to catch a plane to Hollywood and Sarah Jessica, my partner John and myself waved goodbye to him as he changed into low key black sweats in the elevator on the first leg of his journey to film Godzilla (1998.) Matthew was in the very big times now and there was a twinkle in his eyes. He starred on Broadway with Nathan Lane in the revival of the hilarious musical The Producers and the two paired up in the remake of the film—they also paired in Simon’s The Odd Couple—and I enjoyed seeing him and Lane again in Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play on Broadway in 2015.
An HBO TV star as Carrie Bradshaw in the phenomenally successful Sex and the City, and producer as well, and in at least two movies made from the influential series, Sarah Jessica Parker has evolved into New York’s leading fashion icon and has her own line of fashions, shoes, fragrances, a publishing imprint, and other business ventures as well as a new TV series entitled And Just Like That. Like Matthew, she started out young starring in Annie on Broadway in 1979-80. She made several movies including LA Story (1991) and Ed Wood (1994) and before she hooked up with Matthew, she dated, among others, no less than Robert Downey Jr. and John F. Kennedy, Jr.
Robert Heide’s most recent publication is Robert Heide 25 Plays and with John Gilman, is the author of Greenwich Village – A Primo Guide to Shopping, Eating, and Making Merry in True Bohemia, Starstruck, Box-Office Buckaroos, Home Front America, O’ New Jersey and many others, all available on Amazon.