Producer of some of Broadway's biggest hits dies aged 91
“King of the Broadway musical” Harold Prince, who worked on shows including Phantom Of The Opera and Sweeney Todd, has died aged 91.
The legendary director and producer won a record 21 Tony awards during his career, which spanned seven decades.
He died after a brief illness while in Reykjavik, Iceland, his publicist Rick Miramontez said.
Prince, who was known by friends as Hal, received Tony awards for both producing and directing, and in 2006 was given the special award for lifetime achievement in the theatre.
He was known for having a cinematic director’s touch, and was unpredictable and uncompromising in his choice of stage material.
Prince often picked challenging and offbeat subjects to musicalise, such as a murderous, knife-wielding barber in Sweeney Todd, and the 19th century opening of Japan to the West in Pacific Overtures.
He also directed shows including Cabaret, Evita and Show Boat.
In the 1950s and ’60s, he produced shows including The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, West Side Story, Fiorello!, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum and Fiddler On The Roof.
Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber was among the first to react publicly to the news, saying it was impossible to overestimate the importance of Prince to musical theatre.
He added that “all of modern musical theatre owes practically everything to him”.
Not just the prince of musicals, the crowned head who directed two of the greatest productions of my career, Evita and Phantom.
This wonderful man taught me so much and his mastery of musical theatre was without equal.
— Andrew Lloyd Webber (@OfficialALW) July 31, 2019
Sir Andrew recalled when, as a young man, he was feeling low after writing the music for the flop Jeeves. Prince wrote him a letter urging him not to be discouraged.
The two men later met and Sir Andrew said he was thinking of next doing a musical about Evita Peron.
Prince told him to bring it to him first.
Sir Andrew said: “That was game-changing for me. Without that, I often wonder where I would be.”
The English composer also paid tribute to Prince on Twitter.
He wrote: “Farewell Hal. Not just the prince of musicals, the crowned head who directed two of the greatest productions of my career, Evita and Phantom. This wonderful man taught me so much and his mastery of musical theatre was without equal.”
The official Phantom Of The Opera account has also posted a tribute, saying: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our legendary director, Hal Prince. Our condolences to his family at this time. With love, the entire Phamily.”
In addition to Sir Andrew, Prince also worked with some of the best-known composers and lyricists in musical theatre, including Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, John Kander and Fred Ebb.
It was with Sondheim, who was the lyricist for West Side Story, that Prince developed his most enduring creative relationship.
Prince once said: “I don’t do a lot of analysing of why I do something.
“It’s all instinct.”
He also said he rarely took on an idea just for the money, and added: “Theatre is not about that. It is about creating something. The fact that some of my shows have done so well is sheer luck.”
Prince also had a musical created about him: Called Prince Of Broadway, the musical, featuring songs from many of the shows that made him famous, opened in Japan in 2015 and landed on Broadway two years later.
Born in New York on January 30 1928, he was the son of affluent parents, for whom Saturday matinees in the theatre with their children were a regular occurrence.