Harold Prince has dominated Broadway for the last 40 years, either directing or producing many of the most successful and powerful musicals of the last four decades. For his significant contribution to one of this country's most cherished arts forms, he has been honored with a record-breaking 19 Tony Awards.
"Mr. Prince may be the most innovative director on Broadway. He may be the one most obsessed with craft as well" (The New York Times). "I had Abbott to guide me," explains Prince, referring to the great theatrical legend George Abbott, with whom he apprenticed, at 25, as a stage manager on Wonderful Town. A year later he coproduced the biggest hit in town, The Pajama Game, and became a Broadway sensation in his own right. The rest of the decade saw more hits: Damn Yankees, New Girl in Town, West Side Story, and Fiorello.
The 1960s brought more triumphs and introduced the era of Hal Prince as Broadway's most celebrated musical theater director with stagings of Zorba and his biggest success of the decade, Cabaret. Prince, in fact, traces his artistic birth to 1963 when he directed She Loves Me.
The '70s ushered in the partnership of Prince and Sondheim, "the most exciting thing to have happened to the American musical in 20 years" ( The Times, London). They had first met, appropriately enough, in a theater at the first New York performance of South Pacific in 1949. Twenty years later they together transformed the notion of the "concept" musical, where "theme" takes precedence over "plot," into art and changed the look and sound of Broadway forever. Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, and Sweeney Todd each took the musical theater in different, uncharted, exhilarating directions. Alistair Cooke described attending a performance of Pacific Overtures: " One of those very rare nights in the theater when you feel that a whole generation of pleasant but clogging theatrical clichés has been shed like a skin, and when people who walked in darkness had suddenly seen a great light." Additionally, without Sondheim, Prince directed three of the decade's biggest blockbusters, Candide, On the Twentieth Century, and Evita, unquestionably dominating Broadway for a generation.
In 1976 Prince directed his first opera for New York City Opera, and activity in that field continued until the present, with stagings of La Fanciulla del West, Madama Butterfly, Turandot, Faust, and other works at the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Lyric, Houston Grand, and Vienna Staatsoper.
Since 1980 Prince has had two extraordinary successes. In 1986, he reteamed with his Evita composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, for the international phenomenon, The Phantom of the Opera, and in 1993 his groundbreaking Kiss of the Spider Woman won the Tony Award for best musical of the season. His latest work, a critically acclaimed revival of Showboat in Toronto, will be seen on Broadway this fall.