Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Staggering Success Of A True Impresario!

The list is nothing short of staggering!
“The Pajama Game,” ″Damn Yankees,” ″West Side Story,” ″A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Cabaret,” ″Company,” ″Follies,” ″Sweeney Todd,” ″Evita” and “The Phantom of the Opera.”
And that's just part of the story of the legendary Harold (Hal) Prince, the ubiquitous producer/director who came to be known as The Prince of Broadway.
Prince died earlier today after a brief illness in Reykjavik, Iceland.
All Broadway theater lights will be dimmed tonight in his memory.
This man won an unprecedented 21 Tony Awards! 
He was a theatrical pioneer who was known to chose innovative, groundbreaking and often offbeat works that charted new artistic ground. He was demanding and exacting but also generous to and supportive of the countless artists he worked with, many of them creative geniuses such as Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber. 
He like to push the envelope and take Broadway into new directions: introducing controversial themes and topics; developing new formats for plays and musicals; encouraging audacious young talent and refusing to stick to the tried and true. In short, he was a relentless rule breaker who still never forgot the fundamental keys that more often than not defined a hit show.
Not all his shows were hits. But those that succeeded did so in such a big way, with such a definitive flourish and with such dynamism that they became theatrical (and sometimes cinematic) landmarks. For example: Phantom is still running on Broadway; Fiddler is almost always being performed somewhere in the world and can now be experienced in Yiddish; West Side Story is about to be revived on Broadway and will soon become a Steven Spielberg film and Evita will be revived in the fall by New York's City Center. 
Among our favorite Prince shows: "On The Twentieth Century," "Follies," "Company," "Sweeney Todd," and "Cabaret." Of course, Prince's artistic partners were top notch: Kander and Ebb; Comden and Green; Bernstein; Lloyd Webber, Fosse and Prince's mentor George Abbott. But Prince is perhaps best known for his longtime collaborations with  Stephen Sondheim as they sent Broadway into bold, new directions with the concept musical "Company," the elaborate, pastiche-driven "Follies," the sweeping, historical "Pacific Overtures" and the grizzly, macabre "Sweeney Todd."
But even beyond all these, Prince had a miraculous touch with classic Broadway shows, too as he proved  when he revived the granddaddy of them all, "Show Boat," giving it new meaning and bringing it to life for modern audiences. It proved once again that Hal Prince never forgot his roots.
Prince was born 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 three years later at age 19. He later served two years with the United States Army in post-World War II Germany.
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. The Harold Prince Theatre at the Annenberg Center of the University of Pennsylvania is named in his honor.
Harold Prince was one of the last links to the Golden Age of Broadway: the glorious days of great, riveting theater; rapturous music; broad comedy and enduring themes which peaked in the 1950s. Prince brought all that he learned from the masters of that era along with him and, teaming with his fellow native New Yorker, Sondheim, he helped to keep Broadway's lights bright by bringing it into a new era. At 89, Sondheim survives Prince and remains perhaps the last towering connection to an era that defined Broadway as we now know it.
As the old country music standard goes: Who's gonna fill their shoes?


New Jersey Patriot said...

Absolutely spot on. My favorite (if one can choose from so many great shows): West Side Story. It was a collaboration of Laurents, Sondheim, Bernstein, and can one get better than that. Robbins was one of my favorite choreographers ...I saw many of his dances at New York City Ballet. He was on show business shitlist for a while because of his testimony at the McCarthy hearings. Prince (and George Balanchine) resurrected his reputation as a supreme choreographer. It was one of the great many successful risks he took.

Dan Cirucci said...

Thanks for your prescient comments -- and for adding vital bits of history!