Plaza sweet

While The Plaza has been the backdrop for many literary works and films, the hotel remains the real star.

The Plaza has a “suite” idea for theatergoers this month — a “From the Suite to the Stage” package, with orchestra seats for two to Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite,” starring Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, along with a stay in an actual Plaza suite and pre-theater cocktails at The Palm Court. 

What makes this production, at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre March 13 through July 12, unusual is the casting, which harks back to the original 1968 production. Those familiar with the play’s later iterations will remember the conceit in the 1971 film adaptation of Walter Matthau playing the male lead to three different actresses in its three separate acts, or stories, all of which are set in Suite 719 of The Plaza hotel in Manhattan. (In the 1987 telefilm adaptation, Carol Burnett reversed this, playing the female lead to three different actors.)

The two-time Tony Award-winning Broderick and the two-time Emmy Award-winning Parker, who are married, bring the play full circle, playing the three sets of couples, as George C. Scott and Maureen Stapleton did in the original production. In the poignant first act, “Visitor From Mamaroneck,” a wife seeks to celebrate her wedding anniversary, unaware at first that her husband is cheating on her. In the second act, “Visitor From Hollywood,” a movie producer sets out to seduce an old flame. And in the uproarious third act, “Visitor From Forest Hills,” the exasperated father and mother of a nervous bride, who has locked herself in the bathroom, are desperate to get her downstairs to the wedding — before the cake and the guests melt.

But “Plaza Suite” is just one of many works in which the landmarked 20-story luxury hotel and condominium apartment building has figured. It’s where the main characters in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” face off as they seek to escape the oppressive heat of a New York summer. (Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, knew the hotel well, once frolicking across the way in Grand Army Plaza’s Pulitzer Fountain.)  Where Cary Grant arrives for a luncheon at The Oak Room, setting in motion a case of mistaken identity that will lead to international intrigue and murder in Alfred Hitchcock’s “North By Northwest” (1959). Where Barbra Streisand tenderly bids farewell to Robert Redford at the end of “The Way We Were” (1971). And, of course, where then-owner, now President, Donald J. Trump directs Macaulay Culkin to the lobby in the 1992 film “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” (“Down the hall and to the left”). (Today The Plaza is owned by Katara Hospitality and managed by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, which owns its sister hotel in Boston, now called the Fairmont Copley Plaza.)

But perhaps the most famous works associated with The Plaza are Kay Thompson’s 1950s “Eloise” books about a mischievous little girl who lives at the 123-year-old French Renaissance-style hotel. 

Modern Eloises can stay in her suite, which fashion designer Betsey Johnson has decorated to pink-and-white striped, floral, zebra-carpeted, over-the-top perfection; savor Eloise-themed tea and birthday parties; participate in jewelry box- and birdhouse-decorating workshops; and shop in her very own shop for books, clothing, accessories and more. (It’s one of several tony Plaza offerings that include Assouline Books & Gifts, Guerlain Spa and Warren Tricomi Salon.)

More goodies await at The Plaza’s underground food hall. (Enter on 58th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues or through Todd English at The Plaza on Central Park South.) The hall offers everything from doughnuts to dumplings, tacos to tartines. There’s also The Plaza Hotel Finishing Program, taught by Myra Meier of Beaumont Etiquette.

Is it any wonder then that The Plaza has been the go-to place for celebs to rest their weary heads — and kick up their heels? When The Beatles arrived in America in February 1964, they were booked into The Plaza. And when author Truman Capote of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” fame wanted to throw a black-and-white masquerade ball for The Washington Post publisher (and onetime Mount Kisco resident) Katharine Graham, he did so in The Plaza’s Grand Ballroom on Nov. 28, 1966, a night later remembered as a pinnacle in New York social history. That same ballroom hosted Trump’s second wedding, to Marla Maples, in 1993.

The hotel has changed a great deal over the years. Gone are The Oak Room and the sense of grandeur and sweep when you entered — as well as the feeling that you could just pop in to powder your nose. But there is still enough of the iconic place — and fond memories of birthday parties and lunches in The Palm Court and Oak Room to remind you that while the hotel has often been the backdrop for the arts and artists, everyone knows who the real star is.

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