|MASTER OF MUSICALS
|By JOE DZIEMIANOWICZ
A Broadway icon has taken his final bow. Harold “Hal” Prince, the man behind many of America’s greatest and most treasured musicals, died July 31 at 91, after a brief illness.
During a storied career that spanned seven decades and left indelible marks on the theater, the Manhattan-born Prince cut his teeth in the office of legendary director George Abbott during the Golden Age of Broadway.
He and stage manager Robert Griffith acquired the rights to the book, “7 1/2 Cents,” which became the 1954 musical The Pajama Game – and from then on it was onward and upward for Prince, producing one hit musical after another, including Damn Yankees, West Side Story, She Loves Me and Fiddler on the Roof.
Segueing into directing – most notably Cabaret, as well as a half-dozen game-changing, and conceptual musicals with Stephen Sondheim, beginning with Company, followed by Follies and Sweeney Todd – Prince proved he was in his element in that role too.
In addition to Sondheim, Prince’s colleagues read like a who’s who of theater royalty, including Leonard Bernstein, John Kander and Fred Ebb, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, Cy Coleman, Jerome Robbins, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
“This wonderful man taught me so much, and his mastery of musical theatre was without equal,” Webber, who collaborated with Prince on Evita, said in a statement.
Not all was high-flying, adored, however. There were flops and disappointments along the way, including Merrily, We Roll Along with Sondheim, but Prince always managed to rebound.
His staging helped turn Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera into a crowd-pleasing monumental blockbuster and global brand that is still running in London after 33 years and on Broadway, where’s it’s the longest-running show ever, after 31.
Prince also holds the record for the most Tony Awards at 21.
Prince is survived by his wife Judy; two children, Daisy and Charles; and three grandchildren, Phoebe, Lucy and Felix.
In keeping with Prince’s wishes there will be no funeral, according to his rep, “but there will be a celebration of his life this fall with the people he loved most, the members of the theatrical community that he was part of for seven decades.”