Written by Erin James
“I had no interest remotely in musicals. I thought they were silly” – Harold Prince.
When American producer and director Harold Prince stepped into the world of music theatre at age 20, it wasn’t with a burning desire to immerse himself into the art form. Funnily enough, the Prince of Broadway was originally a self professed cynic of the musical with a penchant for “serious dramas”.
Flash forward 70 years and he is the world’s most prolific Tony Award winner (he has 21 Tonys to his name including 8 for directing and 8 for producing the year’s Best Musical) and arguably one of the most important figures in the modern musical theatre world.
If you don’t know Prince by name, you will most certainly know his work. Over the course of his 70 year career, Harold Prince has produced or directed (sometimes produced AND directed) some of the most groundbreaking, memorable and important productions in the history of musical theatre. From West Side Story to Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret to Evita, Phantom of the Opera to Parade, Prince’s work as both a producer and a director is mind boggling. Never afraid to explore dark and daring subject matter, Prince has been creatively involved with over 50 plays, operas and musicals. Unsurprisingly, he is often credited with helping to shape the musical theatre genre from the froth-and-bubble musical comedies of old into a diverse art form with the ability to comment on social and political context.
Luckily for Australian musical theatre lovers, he is heading to Australia later this year to work with some of the country’s most talented performers, creatives and musicians to recreate one of his personal favourite musicals. When Prince arrives to direct Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s EVITA at the Sydney Opera House, it will be a momentous occasion for the Australian musical theatre industry.
Let’s take a look at the journey that has brought the Prince of Broadway to our shores.
The birth of a Broadway Prince
Harold Prince is born on January 30.
At age 20, Prince writes a letter to a man whom he describes as “the busiest producer, playwright and director on Broadway”, George Abbott. Primarily involved in the musical theatre world, Prince ends up working for him.
Hey, Mister Producer
Harold Prince produces the groundbreaking Bernstein musical West Side Story, giving composer Stephen Sondheim his Broadway debut as a lyricist. You can listen to the original Broadway cast recording on Spotify.
Harold Prince produces Stephen Sondheim‘s first Broadway musical as a composer, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Directed by George Abbott, the production won Best Musical at the Tony Awards.
Fiddler on the Roof wins Prince a Tony Award for Best Producer and the show takes home the Tony Award for Best Musical.
The original Broadway production of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret is produced AND directed by Prince. Starring Joel Grey, the show won the Tony for Best Musical and won Prince his first Tony as Best Director of a Musical.
The Sondheim Series (and then some)
A decade-long collaboration with Stephen Sondheim sees Prince involved with collection of Sondheim musicals, including:
- 1970 Company (producer/director)
- 1971 Follies (producer/director)
- 1973 A Little Night Music (producer/director)
- 1976 Pacific Overtures (producer/director)
- 1977 Side By Side By Sondheim (producer/director)
- 1979 Sweeney Todd (director)
The Sondheim collaborations win him 5 Tony Awards and 4 Drama Desk Awards.
Prince releases his first book, Contradictions: Notes on Twenty-Six Years in the Theatre
Prince directs the original production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s masterpiece, EVITA, a show which Prince counts as “one of my favourite musicals by far.”
Music of the Night
Prince wins both the Tony and Drama Desk Award for direction for EVITA.
Directs the Broadway revival of the seminal American musical Show Boat, a production which was mounted in Australia in 1998 to critical acclaim.
Directs the original production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, which played for 30 years in London’s West End, became the longest running show on Broadway in 2012 and has been performed in 15 different languages across 35 countries. The Phantom of the Opera wins Musical of the Year at the 1986 Olivier Awards and 7 Tonys including Best Musical and Best Director of a Musical at the 1988 Tony Awards.
Flip through the original The Phantom of the Opera Playbill on Playbill.com
A New World
Kiss of the Spiderwoman (director)
Prince introduces composer Jason Robert Brown Parade to a Broadway audience when he directs the original production of Parade.
A Lifetime of Love
Prince is awarded a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre.
Love Musik on Broadway (director)
Prince’s updated memoir, Sense of Occasion is published. In Sense of Occasion, Prince returns to his 1974 text, “invigorating it with fresh insights cultivated through four decades of additional practice”.
EVITA AT THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE
After recreating the original production in South Africa in 2017, Prince brings EVITA to Australia, starring Tina Arena as Eva Peron, First Lady of Argentina.