Actor Matthew Broderick’s guide to Broadway
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
I was born in Manhattan, and first lived on Ninth Street at Fifth Avenue before moving a few blocks to Washington Square North. My wife [Sarah Jessica Parker] and I shared our first apartment in Soho, but we now live back in Greenwich Village where I started, so I basically haven’t gotten out of a six-block radius my whole life. I love it here: the buildings are low so you can see the sky and it’s a short walk to the Hudson River, which is now an extremely pleasant place to walk. Although the area has gentrified, it retains a sense of weirdness and quirk, and I like that I still see elderly people hauling their groceries from small local shops. The area has kept its history, the brownstones and tree-lined streets are the same, my friends are still here, and my kids go to the same school that I did.
Much of my life is centred on Broadway. The ripple effect of it closing for 18 months was huge: from the trucks that drive the lights to the make-up artists, to the scenery people being out of work, and on and on. Midtown still feels quiet but it’s coming back. I just saw my first play in two years, The Lehman Trilogy, which I loved; it felt incredible to be back watching a live performance with an enthusiastic audience.
With Plaza Suite set to run, I am thinking more about the theatre and Times Square in general. I’m looking forward to so many plays – Six, The Music Man and Caroline, Or Change, like everyone else – but also to the routine of rehearsals, and to just standing around eating a Sweetgreen salad with our stage manager and lighting crew. I’m also excited about returning to old favourites including The Algonquin Hotel, which is such a part of the old theatre world and, not to be obvious, but post-show drinks at Bar Centrale, or a more substantial meal at the famous Joe Allen. I like the Glass House Tavern for a casual burger and a drink after a show, or Café Un Deux Trois, which is an institution. José is the maître d’ there and I love him – the French food is excellent too.
When people come to New York I tend to recommend boutique hotels or the old classics that have a real sense of place and history. The Mercer in Soho is great for meeting for drinks, while The Jane is a landmark West Village spot with small rooms but excellent river views. For old-fashioned glamour, it’s The Carlyle uptown: quintessential New York of a certain time and it’s right near Central Park. A drink and live music at Bemelmans Bar here is a must.
Nearer home, I am a big fan of Three Lives bookstore in the West Village, because I always need books, and J Mueser is a great men’s clothing store that carries funkier independent labels. You’ll find suits and sport coats here in unusual colours and with a little edge, either off the rack or bespoke. The salespeople are endlessly helpful and always tell you what’s coming next. Then just down the street is Casa Magazines – New York’s ultimate newsstand – and also Village Cigars on Sheridan Square, an iconic store that everyone should see once. For a bite afterwards I highly recommend Mary’s Fish Camp for classic New England seafood but a bit more refined. It’s local and cosy and the perfect place for a lobster roll.
I am really looking forward to being with a live audience again and to working with this group of actors – one of whom, my wife, I get to see every day – and our director, John Benjamin Hickey. Part of theatre lore is its “show must go on” mentality. It’s about being adaptable, and we’ve had to be. The theatre is about togetherness and we all appreciate how important that is now. I hope we can “build back better”, as President Biden says, and that theatre becomes more affordable, inclusive and accessible. If, out of this time, we can improve on theatre for all then I think that’s a silver lining.
Plaza Suite is showing at the Hudson Theatre Broadway until 12 June; plazasuitebroadway.com