Laughing All the Way; Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane Return to the Stage for 'The Odd Couple'-And Break the Bank

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Byline: Marc Peyser

Time for a Broadway math lesson. There are 1,077 seats in the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, which means that a show there has 8,616 tickets to sell every week. Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" just began previews, and it's scheduled to run until April 2. Let's see, that's 26 weeks at 8 performances a week with 1,077 tickets per show for a grand total of--crunch, crunch, crunch --224,106 tickets (not including standing room). And if you called the box office this minute, how many of those 224,106 tickets would be available? Crunch, crunch, crunch. Zero. Every theater season features one or two blockbusters, usually a movie turned musical or some show that's roped in a film star like Hugh Jackman or, coming next spring, Julia Roberts. "The Odd Couple" doesn't have songs or A-list actors, but it's got something better. It's got Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.

Lane and Broderick may be an odd couple, but with $21 million in tickets sold, they are theater superstars. Broderick has had memorable moments on film ("Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Election") and won two Tony awards; Lane has two Tonys, a decent film resume and a short-lived sitcom. Individually they've had fine careers, but together they're not just gin and vermouth--they're a martini. They became a sensation in "The Producers" in 2001. Lane played the schleppy, conniving Bialystock, and Broderick was a skinny, uptight accountant named Bloom. "It's that old cliche of opposites attract," says "Producers" director Susan Stroman. "Nathan's delivery is fast and loud, and Matthew's is underplayed and quiet. It's the perfect combination."

Everyone knew Lane and Broderick would be a hit in "The Odd Couple." They're playing virtually the same characters they did in "The Producers"--Lane is slobby Oscar and Broderick is fusty Felix, which is ironic since, in real life, Broderick is the slob and Lane the neatnik. …