Harold Smith Prince (born Harold Smith; January 30, 1928 – July 31, 2019), commonly known as Hal Prince, was an American theatrical producer and director associated with many of the best-known Broadway musical productions of the 20th century.
Prince with Toni Morrison in 2007
January 30, 1928
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
|Died||July 31, 2019 91) (aged|
|Other names||Hal Prince|
|Education||Timothy Dwight School|
|Alma mater||University of Pennsylvania|
|Occupation||Theatrical producer, director|
Judith Chaplin (m. 1962)
Over the span of his career, he garnered 21 Tony Awards, more than any other individual, including eight for directing, eight for producing the year's Best Musical, two as Best Producer of a Musical, and three special awards.
Prince was born to an affluent family in Manhattan, the son of Blanche (Stern) and Harold Smith. He was adopted by his stepfather, Milton A. Prince, a stockbroker. His family was of German Jewish descent. Following his graduation from the Dwight School in New York, he entered the University of Pennsylvania, where he followed a liberal arts curriculum and graduated in three years at age 19. He later served two years with the United States Army in post-World War II Germany.
Prince began work in the theatre as an assistant stage manager to theatrical producer and director George Abbott. Along with Abbott, he co-produced The Pajama Game, which won the 1955 Tony Award for Best Musical. He went on to direct his own productions in 1962 beginning with A Family Affair and had a series of unsuccessful productions.
He almost gave up musical theater before his success with Kander and Ebb's Cabaret in 1966. 1970 marked the start of his greatest collaboration, with composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim. They had previously worked on West Side Story and at this point decided to embark on their own project. Their association spawned a long string of productions, including Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Pacific Overtures (1976), and Sweeney Todd (1979). Following Merrily We Roll Along (1981), which was not successful, running for 16 performances, they parted ways until Bounce in 2003.
Prince directed operas including Josef Tal's Ashmedai, Carlisle Floyd's Willie Stark, Puccini's Madama Butterfly, and a revival of Bernstein's Candide. In 1983 Prince staged Turandot for the Vienna State Opera (conductor: Lorin Maazel; with José Carreras and Éva Marton).
Despite creating a number of hugely popular musicals in the late 1970s and early 1980s such as Sweeney Todd and Evita, Prince had his first critical failure with Sondheim in 1981 with Merrily We Roll Along. Determined to bounce back, he started working on a new musical A Doll's Life with lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green that would continue the story of Nora Helmer past what Henrik Ibsen had written in A Doll's House. It was badly received and ran for five performances; The New York Times reviewer wrote "It was overproduced and overpopulated to the extent that the tiny resolute figure of Nora became lost in the combined mechanics of Broadway and the Industrial Revolution."
Prince's other commercially unsuccessful musicals included Grind (1985), which closed after 71 performances, and Roza (1987). However, his production of The Phantom of the Opera, debuting on Broadway in 1988, eventually became the longest-running show in Broadway history. Prince ultimately stopped producing because he "became more interested in directing".
Prince was the inspiration for John Lithgow's character in Bob Fosse's film All That Jazz. He was also assumed to be the basis of a character in Richard Bissell's novel Say, Darling, which chronicled Bissell's own experience turning his novel 7½ Cents into The Pajama Game.
In 2000, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. In 2006, Prince was awarded a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. On May 20, 2007, he gave the commencement address at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In 2008 Prince was the keynote speaker at Elon University's Convocation for Honors celebration.
Prince co-directed, with Susan Stroman, the 2010 musical Paradise Found. The musical features the music of Johann Strauss II as adapted by Jonathan Tunick with lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh. The book was written by Richard Nelson, based on Joseph Roth's novel The Tale of the 1002nd Night. The musical premiered at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London on May 19, 2010 and closed on June 26, and starred Mandy Patinkin.
A retrospective of his work, titled Prince of Broadway, presented by Umeda Arts Theater, premiered in Tokyo, Japan in October 2015. The book was written by David Thompson with additional material and orchestrations by Jason Robert Brown. The revue was co-directed by Susan Stroman and Prince. The revue opened on Broadway in August 2017 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Directed by Prince and Stroman (also choreographer), the cast featured Chuck Cooper, Janet Dacal, Bryonha Marie Parham, Emily Skinner, Brandon Uranowitz, Kaley Ann Voorhees, Michael Xavier, Tony Yazbeck, and Karen Ziemba.
According to Masterworks Broadway, "besides his achievements as a producer and director, Prince is also known for bringing innovation to the theatrical arts. In collaboration with Stephen Sondheim, he was a pioneer in the development of the 'concept musical,' taking its departure from an idea or theme rather than from a traditional story. Their first project of this kind, Company (1970), was a solid success and paved the way for other innovative musicals."
The Harold Prince Theatre at the Annenberg Center of the University of Pennsylvania is named in his honor.
Andrew Lloyd Webber said: "There isn’t anybody working on musical theater on either side of the Atlantic who doesn’t owe an enormous debt to this extraordinary man....Hal was very minimalist with his sets. People think of Phantom as this great big spectacle. That’s an illusion. Hal always looked at the show as this big black box in which the stage craft enabled you to believe there was this impressive scenery all around you."
Jason Robert Brown said: "More than anything else, when I think about Hal, I think about his belief in theater. He believed in what it could do....He thought a lot about the world and the political systems and emotional support systems in it. He was very much a political artist."
Prince married Judy Chaplin, daughter of composer and musical director Saul Chaplin, on October 26, 1962. They are parents of Daisy Prince, a director, and Charles Prince, a conductor. Actor Alexander Chaplin, best known as "James Hobert" on Spin City, is Prince's son-in-law. At the time of his death, Prince lived in Manhattan and Switzerland.
Prince died on July 31, 2019, in Reykjavík, Iceland, at the age of 91 following a brief illness.
Awards and nominations
- Prince, Harold, Contradictions: Notes on Twenty-six Years in the Theatre, Dodd, Mead ISBN 0-396-07019-1 (1974 autobiography)
- Prince, Harold (1993), Grandchild of Kings, Samuel French
- Hirsch, Foster (1989, rev 2005), Harold Prince and the American Musical Theatre, Applause Books, (with Prince providing extensive interviews and the foreword), ISBN 1-5578-3617-5
- Ilson, Carol (1989), Harold Prince: From Pajama Game To Phantom of the Opera And Beyond, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-8357-1961-8
- Ilson, Carol (2000), Harold Prince: A Director's Journey, Limelight Series, Hal Leonard Corporation ISBN 0-8791-0296-9
- Napoleon, Davi, Chelsea on the Edge: The Adventures of an American Theater, Iowa State University Press (Includes a preface by Prince and a full chapter about the production of Candide)
- Brunet, Daniel; Angel Esquivel Rios, Miguel; and Geraths, Armin (2006), Creating the "New Musical": Harold Prince in Berlin, Peter Lang Publishing
- Thelen, Lawrence (1999), The Show Makers: Great Directors of the American Musical Theatre, Routledge
- Guernsey, Otis L. (Editor) (1985), Broadway Song and Story: Playwrights/Lyricists/Composers Discuss Their Hits, Dodd Mead
- "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
- Kennedy, Mark (July 31, 2019). "Towering Jewish Broadway director and producer Hal Prince dead at 91". Times of Israel.
- "Harold Prince Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved November 25, 2008.
- Jacobs, Alexandria (December 1, 2017). "Rolling Merrily Along With Hal Prince". The New York Times. Retrieved July 1, 2018.
- "Obituary" The Guardian, July 31, 2019
- "Harold Prince Dies at 91" Washington Post, July 31, 2019
- "Hal Prince Dies at 91" Bloomberg, July 31, 2019
- The Pajama Game Playbill (vault), accessed July 31, 2019
- "Harold Prince Broadway" Playbill (vault), accessed July 31, 2019
- "Harold Prince Biography and Interview". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
- Merrily We Roll Along Playbill (vault), accessed July 31, 2019
- "Hal Prince dies at 91; Broadway giant won 21 Tonys for musicals including 'Cabaret,' 'Phantom'" Los Angeles Times, July 31, 2019
- Raymond Ericson:City Opera Brings Back "Ashmedai" The New York Times, November 6, 1977
- "Turandot 1983" operaonvideo.com, accessed July 31, 2019
- Hughes, Samuel (March 2010). "Musical Man". The Pennsylvania Gazette. University of Pennsylvania.
- Canby, Vincent. " 'A Doll's Life', New Look at Hypothetical Future of Ibsen's Nora" The New York Times, December 22, 1994
- Grind ibdb.com, accessed July 31, 2019
- The Phantom of the Opera ibdb.com, accessed July 31, 2019
- Natale, Richard (July 31, 2019). "Harold Prince, Dominant Force in Broadway Musicals, Dies at 91". Variety. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
- Mandelbaum, Ken. "Obscure Recordings: 'Say, Darling'" broadway.com/, May 20, 2004
- Lifetime Honors - National Medal of Arts Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine nea.gov
- Gans, Andrew. "60th Annual Antoinette Perry "Tony" Awards to Be Presented June 11" Playbill, June 11, 2006
- "Announcing Our 2007-2008 Season" The Marquee, Summer, 2007, accessed July 31, 2019
- Fick, David. "PARADISE FOUND at the Menier Chocolate Factory" musicalcyberspace.com, September 22, 2009
- Gans, Andrew. "Baldwin, Cullum, Hensley and Kaye Will Join Patinkin for London's 'Paradise Found'" Playbill, February 18, 2010
- "PRINCE OF BROADWAY｜LINEUP｜TOKYU THEATRE Orb". theatre-orb.com. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
- Chow, Andrew R."'Prince of Broadway' Set for Broadway, Finally" The New York Times, December 7, 2016
- Clement, Olivia. " 'Prince of Broadway' Will Open on Broadway This Summer" Playbill, December 7, 2016
- Stasio, Marilyn. "Broadway Review: Harold Prince Revue 'Prince of Broadway'" Variety, August 24, 2017
- "Harold Prince" masterworksbroadway.com, accessed August 2, 2019
- "Theatres & Rehearsal Rooms, Annenberg Center" Annenberg Center.org, accessed July 31, 2019
- Hetrick, Adam. "PBS Will Air Encore of Harold Prince: The Director’s Life" Playbill, August 1, 2019
- Harold Prince: The Director’s Life PBS, accessed August 2, 2019
- Lang, Brent. "Hal Prince Remembered: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Joel Grey, Jason Robert Brown Reflect on Theater Giant" Variety, August 2, 2019
- Weber, Bruce. "Hal Prince, Giant of Broadway and Tony Award Collector, Dies at 91" The New York Times, July 31, 2019
- Simonson, Robert. "Harold Prince, Giant of the Broadway Stage, Dies at 91" Playbill, July 31, 2019
- McPhee, Ryan. "Broadway Theatres to Dim Marquee Lights in Honor of Harold Prince" Playbill, July 31, 2019
- "Harold Prince Broadway" Internet Broadway database, accessed July 31, 2019
- Collins, Glenn. "Harold Prince Bound For Off Off Broadway, And Happy About It: Harold Prince Happily Bound for Off Off Broadway", The New York Times, February 13, 1992, p. C21
- Grandchild Of Kings irishrep.org (1991-92 Season), accessed July 31, 2019
- The Petrified Prince Internet Off-Broadway Database, accedd August 1, 2019
- Harris, Paul. "Reviews. 'Whistle Down the Wind' " Variety, December 21, 1996
- Mallinger, Scott. "Hal Prince Gives New Talent a Showcase With 3hree" Playbill, October 9, 2000
- Something for Everyone tcm.com, accessed July 31, 2019
- A Little Night Music tcm.com, accessed July 31, 2019
- Harold Prince at the Internet Broadway Database
- Harold Prince at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Harold Prince on IMDb
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Harold Prince on Charlie Rose
- Works by or about Harold Prince in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- "Harold Prince collected news and commentary". The New York Times.
- Harold Prince Downstage Center interview at American Theatre Wing.org, May 2008
- Harold Prince papers, 1954-1999, held by the Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
- Ruth Mitchell papers, 1887-1999 (bulk 1946-1999), held by the Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
- Harold Prince scores, 1955-1983, held by the Music Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
- Interview with Harold Prince by Bruce Duffie, November 11, 1982