Legendary Theatre Director Hal Prince Dies Aged 91

It’s been confirmed that legendary American theatre director Harold ‘Hal’ Prince has died today, aged 91.

Hal Prince was born in Manhattan in 1928. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania at age 19 before serving two years in post-WWII Germany with the US Army. Prince began a career in the theatre as an assistant stage manager to theatrical producer and director George Abbott, eventually producing and co-producing now-legendary original productions such as WEST SIDE STORY,  THE PAJAMA GAME and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.

Prince made his directorial debut in 1962 beginning with A FAMILY AFFAIR before hitting a series of unsuccessful productions. Prince considered giving up on musical theatre before achieving massive critical and commercial success with Kander and Ebb’s CABARET in 1966.

In 1970, Prince began a string of successful collaborations with composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim with COMPANY, the first in a long line of acclaimed productions between the pair. FOLLIES followed in 1971 along with A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, PACIFIC OVERTURES and SWEENEY TODD throughout the 1970s. The two had a high-profile flop in 1981 with MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, which ran on Broadway for only 16 performances. This marked their final collaboration in the 20th Century before reconvening on BOUNCE in 2003.

Prince also directed two of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s greatest successes with EVITA in 1979 and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA in 1986. Prince’s original production of PHANTOM is still playing in London at Her Majesty’s Theatre and in New York at the Majestic Theatre, where it continues to be the longest-running show in Broadway history. Prince’s original production of PHANTOM is also to tour the UK next year, opening in Leicester in February 2020.

Prince’s last work in the UK was the 2010 world premiere of the musical PARADISE FOUND at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory. Co-directed with Susan Stroman (THE PRODUCERS), the musical starred Mandy Patinkin.

A staged retrospective of his career, THE PRINCE OF BROADWAY premiered in Tokyo in 2015, directed by Hal Prince himself alongside Susan Stroman. The book was written by David Thompson and featured additional material and orchestrations by Jason Robert Brown (PARADE, THE LAST FIVE YEARS). THE PRINCE OF BROADWAY was presented as a musical-revue with the cast performing legendary numbers from shows such as FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, COMPANY and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, presented almost identically to the original productions. THE PRINCE OF BROADWAY opened on Broadway at the Samuel J Friedman Theatre in August 2017, marking Prince’s final work presented on Broadway.

Over the span of his career, Prince was awarded 21 Tony Awards, more than any other individual recipient in the award’s history.

Ben Holtzman, assistant to Prince, confirmed the news of his death today, with Variety reporting that he died in Reykjavik, Iceland following a brief illness.

To commemorate Prince’s life and work, all Broadway theatres will tonight (31.7.19) dim their lights for one minute to mourn the loss of the prolific director and producer.

Below, TheatreGB has compiled a number of posts and statements from the theatre community, mourning and celebrating the life of a man who has shaped modern musical theatre.

“Hal Prince was not only a legendary director of musicals but also a brilliant producer As the curtain finally falls on his phenomenal career it is fitting that his greatest success as a director, The Phantom of The Opera, is still both the longest-running musical on Broadway and continues playing to packed houses at its original London theatre Her Majesty’s, where he also enjoyed two of his most enduring hits as the original producer of Fiddler on the Roof and West Side Story. The Gods of the theatre salute you Hal.” – Cameron Mackintosh

“We at the American Theatre Wing mourn with the rest of the theatre community, as today, we have lost a giant. Hal was our most Tony-winning artist as well as an exceptional mentor and thought leader for our industry. His legacy lives on in all the life-changing theatre and artists he helped foster and shape. Rest well, friend!” – Heather Hitchens, CEO & President of the American Theatre Wing

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