Reviews Roundup: Sarah Jessica Parker in Plaza Suite

Savoy Theatre

Sarah Jessica Parker & Matthew Broderick in Plaza Suite. Photo: Marc Brenner

There was much excitement among fans of Sex And The City’s Sarah Jessica Parker when it was announced that she and her husband Matthew Broderick were coming to London to star in Neil Simon‘s two-hander Plaza Suite. For the fandom, the play probably didn’t matter, but most critics were divided between those who liked the comedy and those who really didn’t. Written in 1968, it has Simon’s trademark one liners but can seem old fashioned. Its three acts each tell a story about a different married couple staying in the eponymous hotel room. The ticket prices seemed to weigh on almost everyone’s mind, and whether the star names justified paying £300 or more. Some of the critics were not impressed by the SJP but, for many, she was a ‘revelation’. On the whole, it seems supporters of Sarah Jessica Parker will not be disappointed, even at the eye-watering prices, but for someone simply looking for a good night out, there are better value choices.

[Links to full reviews are included but a number are behind paywalls and therefore may not be accessible]

It’s ‘a celebrity circus’ moaned Arifa Akbar in The Guardian (2★), lamenting the way the audience members were cheering before the performance even began. As for the show: ‘the production is flat and forgettable…(it) seems effectively to coast on the fame of its two stars.’ Not that they impressed her either: ‘Under the direction of John Benjamin Hickey, it feels strangely like Parker and Broderick are saying lines rather than assuming roles.’ As to the ticket price, ‘What a low, lazy bar to set at such a high price’.

Fiona Mountford in the i (2★) had a similarly low opinion of the show calling it ‘an inert production’. Describing the play, she said`: ‘The dialogue is repetitive and the emotional veracity of the script minimal,’ As for the stars, ‘they manifest almost zero chemistry together on stage’ (but see Adam Bloodworth at CityAM later). The Stage’s (2★) Sam Marlowe described the play as ‘a theatrical museum piece’ and the stars as ‘competent’. For Alice Saville in The Independent (2★) was on the same wavelength, describing the play as ‘creaky’ and Parker and Broderick as ‘just about good enough’.

Even the three star reviews had little good to say about the play. Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times (3★) referred to ‘its creakily dated depiction of the sexes. More than 50 years on, the comedy has aged.’ She concedes ‘It’s Neil Simon: there are zingers and classic bits of funny business’ before concluding ‘But old is not always gold.’ What redeemed the evening for her, as for so many, was SJP: ‘Parker… is a joy, bringing zest, precise detail and sharp comic timing to her characters.’

Andrzej Lukowski in Time Out (3★) had a similar view: ‘there’s definitely no reason you need to see Plaza Suite’ he said, unless ‘you’ve come for the leads’. For him it’s a ‘fusty, stilted production’ but he did praise the stars: ‘Broderick labours some of his parts, but he’s always trying to do something interesting. Parker, meanwhile, may not be the actress to find depth in this script, but she has an effervescent lightness of touch that leavens the stodginess of the writing.’ Sarah Crompton at Whats On Stage (3★) was another who was not keen on the play but was bowled away by the Sex And the City star: ‘yet Parker’s honesty, her vigour, and her pure gift for comedy both physical and verbal, disguise some of their obvious shortcomings. She’s a revelation.’

The same word cropped up in Debbie Gilpin’s review at Broadway World (3★): ‘Sarah Jessica Parker is a revelation…expertly judging the tone required and effortlessly balancing the humour and the drama involved. In addition, Parker’s comic timing is excellent’. For Stefan Kyriazis in The Express (3★), the shine was taken off the evening by Neil Simon’s writing. While acknowledging that ‘Simon excels at repartee and snappy one-liners’, he was concerned that ‘the playwright’s women from this era are relentlessly ridiculous, foolish and insubstantial.’

Not everyone was critical of Neil Simon’s play. Clive Davis in The Times (4★) was ‘glad to see Simon’s name back in lights in the West End.’ He described the playwright as ‘a craftsman who knew all about the underrated art of making people laugh.’ As for the star, ‘Parker delivers ditziness throughout the evening.’ John Nathan at the Jewish Chronicle (4★) loved everything about it (except the prices). He described it as ‘a perfectly formed play’ in a ‘terrific production’. Like others, he found SJP a ‘revelation’. ‘It is her range that stands out,’ he said. Matt Wolf reviewing for The Arts Desk (4★) is another critic who said: ‘I confess to not being prepared for the range Parker displays here, and her gift for walking a tightrope between wise-cracking wit and wistfulness.’

Nick Curtis in The Standard (4★) enthused: ‘John Benjamin Hickey’s Broadway production is like a vintage Rolls Royce: stately, old-fashioned, expensive. But it’s carrying two stars who can actually act.’ He was taken by SJP ‘showing off considerable comic chops and an easy onstage rapport with her husband Matthew Broderick.’ Adam Bloodworth at CityAM (4★) thought it was ‘darn good fun’ and, taking a contrary view to Fiona Mountford, ‘these two explode with chemistry’. He concedes: ‘it would have been more interesting to put these two talented actors in something more up to date’.  Prtice was no obstacle for The Telegraph‘s (4★) Dominic Cavendish who thought it was ‘a wallet busting treat’.

Average critic rating (out of 5) 3.1★

Value rating  16 (Value rating is the Average critic rating divided by the most common Stalls ticket price. In theory this means the higher the score the better value but, because of price variations, a West End show could be excellent value if it scores above 30 while an off-West End show may need to score above 60. This rating is based on opening night prices- theatres may raise or lower prices during the run.)

Plaza Suite can be seen at the Savoy Theatre until 13 April 2024. Click here to buy tickets directly from the theatre

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