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Harold Prince

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Harold Prince
Prince in 1988
Harold Smith

(1928-01-30)January 30, 1928
New York City, U.S.
DiedJuly 31, 2019(2019-07-31) (aged 91)
Reykjavík, Iceland
Other names
  • Hal Prince
  • Harold Smith Prince
EducationTimothy Dwight School
Alma materUniversity of Pennsylvania
  • Theatre director
  • producer
Years active1955–2019
Judith Chaplin
(m. 1962)

Harold Smith Prince (born Harold Smith; January 30, 1928 – July 31, 2019), commonly known as Hal Prince, was an American theatre director and producer known for his work in musical theatre.

One of the foremost figures in 20th-century American theatre, Prince became associated throughout his career with many of the most noteworthy musicals in Broadway history, including West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Sweeney Todd, and Phantom of the Opera, the longest-running show in Broadway history.[1] Many of his productions broke new ground for musical theater, expanding the possibilities of the form by incorporating more serious and political subjects, such as Nazism (Cabaret), the difficulties of marriage (Company), and the forcible opening of 19th-century Japan (Pacific Overtures).

Over the span of his career, he garnered 21 Tony Awards, including eight for directing, eight for producing the year's Best Musical, two as Best Producer of a Musical, and three special awards.

Early life[edit]

Prince was born to an affluent family[2] in Manhattan, the son of Blanche (née Stern) and Harold Smith.[3] His family was of German Jewish descent.[4][5] He was adopted by his stepfather, Milton A. Prince, a stockbroker.[6][7][8] Following his graduation from the Franklin School, later called the Dwight School, in New York, he entered the University of Pennsylvania, where he followed a liberal arts curriculum and graduated in three years at age 19. He later served two years with the United States Army in post–World War II Germany.[5]


Prince began work in the theatre as an assistant stage manager to theatrical producer and director George Abbott. Along with Abbott, he co-produced The Pajama Game, which won the 1955 Tony Award for Best Musical.[9] He received Tony Awards for 1956's Damn Yankees, 1960's Fiorello! and 1963's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Tony nominations for 1958's West Side Story and New Girl in Town. He went on to direct and produce his own productions in 1962 beginning with the unsuccessful A Family Affair[10] followed by his first critically successful musical, She Loves Me (Tony nomination, 1964).

He received a Tony Award for producing Fiddler on the Roof (1965) and almost gave up musical theatre before his Tony winning success directing and producing with Kander and Ebb's Cabaret in 1966, followed by Kander and Ebb's Zorba (Tony nomination, 1969). 1970 marked the start of his greatest creative collaboration, with composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim. They had previously worked on West Side Story[11] and their association spawned a long string of landmark productions, including Company (Tony Award, 1970), Follies (Tony Award, 1971), A Little Night Music (Tony Award, 1973), Pacific Overtures (Tony nomination, 1976), Side by Side by Sondheim (Tony nomination, 1977), and Sweeney Todd (Tony Award, 1979).[10] Following Merrily We Roll Along (1981),[12] which ran for 16 performances, they parted ways until Bounce in 2003.[10][13]

He received a Tony nomination for directing On the Twentieth Century (1978) and won twice for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals Evita (1980) and The Phantom of the Opera (1988).[10][13] Between them, Prince was offered the job of directing Cats by Lloyd Webber but turned it down[14] and directed A Doll's Life (1982) with lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The musical continued the story of Nora Helmer past what Henrik Ibsen had written in A Doll's House. It ran for five performances; The New York Times wrote, "It was overproduced and overpopulated to the extent that the tiny resolute figure of Nora became lost in the combined mechanics of Broadway and the Industrial Revolution." Broadway wags dubbed the show either "A Doll's Death" or, due to the omnipresent portal out of which Nora slammed in the prologue, "A Door's Life." [15]

Prince's other commercially unsuccessful musicals included Grind (Tony nomination, 1985), which closed after 71 performances,[16] and Roza (1987). However, his production of The Phantom of the Opera eventually became the longest-running show in Broadway history.[17] Prince ultimately stopped producing because he "became more interested in directing".[10][13] Kiss of the Spider Woman, which he directed in 1993, received the Tony Award for Best Musical. In 1994, Prince became a Kennedy Center Honoree.[18] He received a 1995 Tony Award for directing Showboat, and was nominated again for 1999's Parade.

In 2000, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.[19] In 2006, Prince was awarded a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.[20] In 2007, he directed his last original musical on Broadway, LoveMusik, and on May 20 of that year, he gave the commencement address at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He was presented with the American Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award by awards council member and author Toni Morrison at a 2007 ceremony in Washington, D.C.[21] In 2008 Prince was the keynote speaker at Elon University's Convocation for Honors celebration.[22]

Prince co-directed, with Susan Stroman, the 2010 musical Paradise Found. The musical features the music of Johann Strauss II as adapted by Jonathan Tunick with lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh. The book was written by Richard Nelson, based on Joseph Roth's novel The Tale of the 1002nd Night. The musical premiered at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London on May 19, 2010 and closed on June 26, and starred Mandy Patinkin.[23][24]

A retrospective of Prince's work titled Prince of Broadway was co-directed by Prince and Susan Stroman and presented by Umeda Arts Theater in Tokyo, Japan in October 2015.[25] The book was written by David Thompson with additional material and orchestrations by Jason Robert Brown. Prince was slated to direct The Band's Visit in 2016 but withdrew due to scheduling conflicts.[26] Prince of Broadway opened in August 2017 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre in New York[27][28] with a cast featuring Chuck Cooper, Janet Dacal, Bryonha Marie Parham, Emily Skinner, Brandon Uranowitz, Kaley Ann Voorhees, Michael Xavier, Tony Yazbeck, and Karen Ziemba.[29]

In addition to musicals, Prince also directed operas[13] including Josef Tal's Ashmedai,[30] Carlisle Floyd's Willie Stark, Puccini's Madama Butterfly, and a revival of Bernstein's Candide (Tony Award, 1974). In 1983 Prince staged Turandot for the Vienna State Opera (conductor: Lorin Maazel; with José Carreras and Éva Marton).[31]


Prince was the inspiration for John Lithgow's character in Bob Fosse's film All That Jazz.[32] He was also assumed to be the basis of a character in Richard Bissell's novel Say, Darling, which chronicled Bissell's own experience turning his novel 7½ Cents into The Pajama Game.[33]

According to Masterworks Broadway, "besides his achievements as a producer and director, Prince is also known for bringing innovation to the theatrical arts. In collaboration with Stephen Sondheim, he was a pioneer in the development of the 'concept musical,' taking its departure from an idea or theme rather than from a traditional story. Their first project of this kind, Company (1970), was a solid success and paved the way for other innovative musicals."[34]

According to The New York Times, "He was known, too, for his collaborations with a murderer's row of creative talents, among them the choreographers Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins, Michael Bennett and Susan Stroman; the designers Boris Aronson, Eugene Lee, Patricia Zipprodt and Florence Klotz; and the composers Leonard Bernstein, John Kander, Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber.[1]"

The Harold Prince Theatre at the Annenberg Center of the University of Pennsylvania is named in his honor.[35]

A documentary titled Harold Prince: The Director's Life was directed by Lonny Price and broadcast on PBS Great Performances in November 2018.[36][37]

In 2019, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts presented an extensive exhibit honoring the life and work of Harold Prince.[38] Prince served as a trustee for the library and on the National Council of the Arts of the National Endowment for the Arts.[39] At the behest of Lotte Lenya, whom he cast in Cabaret (1966), Prince also served on the Board of Trustees of The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music and as a judge of their Lotte Lenya Competition.[40]

Andrew Lloyd Webber said: "There isn't anybody working on musical theater on either side of the Atlantic who doesn't owe an enormous debt to this extraordinary man....Hal was very minimalist with his sets. People think of Phantom as this great big spectacle. That's an illusion. Hal always looked at the show as this big black box in which the stage craft enabled you to believe there was this impressive scenery all around you."[41]

Jason Robert Brown said: "More than anything else, when I think about Hal, I think about his belief in theater. He believed in what it could do....He thought a lot about the world and the political systems and emotional support systems in it. He was very much a political artist."[41]

Personal life[edit]

Prince married Judy Chaplin, daughter of composer and musical director Saul Chaplin, on October 26, 1962. They are parents of Daisy Prince, a director, and Charles Prince, a conductor. Actor Alexander Chaplin, best known for his role as James Hobert on Spin City, is Prince's son-in-law. At the time of his death, Prince lived in Manhattan and Switzerland.[1]


Prince died in Reykjavík, Iceland, on July 31, 2019, at the age of 91, after falling ill while traveling from Switzerland to the United States.[1][42] Later that day, the marquee lights of Broadway's theaters were dimmed in a traditional gesture of honor.[43] A memorial was held at Broadway's Majestic Theatre on December 16, 2019.[44]


Stage productions[edit]

Source: Playbill (vault);[10] Internet Broadway Database[45]


Awards and nominations[edit]

Sources: Playbill (vault);[10] Internet Broadway Database;[45] Los Angeles Times[13]

Year Award Category Work Result
1955 Tony Award Best Musical The Pajama Game Won
1956 Damn Yankees Won
1958 West Side Story Nominated
New Girl in Town Nominated
1960 Fiorello! Won
1963 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum Won
Best Producer of a Musical Won
1964 Best Musical She Loves Me Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Nominated
Best Producer of a Musical Nominated
1965 Best Musical Fiddler on the Roof Won
Best Producer of a Musical Won
1967 Best Musical Cabaret Won
Best Direction of a Musical Won
1969 Best Musical Zorba Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Nominated
1970 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Musical Company Won
1971 Tony Award Best Musical Won
Best Direction of a Musical Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director Follies Won
1972 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Won
Special Tony Award Fiddler on the Roof Won
1973 Best Musical A Little Night Music Won
Best Direction of a Musical Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director Won
The Great God Brown Won
1974 Tony Award Best Direction of a Musical Candide Won
Special Tony Award Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director Won
The Visit Won
1976 Tony Award Best Musical Pacific Overtures Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Musical Nominated
1977 Tony Award Best Musical Side by Side by Sondheim Nominated
1978 Best Direction of a Musical On the Twentieth Century Nominated
1979 Sweeney Todd Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Musical Won
1980 Tony Award Best Direction of a Musical Evita Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Musical Won
1985 Tony Award Best Musical Grind Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Nominated
1988 The Phantom of the Opera Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Musical Won
Cabaret Nominated
1992 Outer Critics Circle Award[47] Outstanding Director Grandchild of Kings Nominated
1993 Tony Award Best Direction of a Musical Kiss of the Spider Woman Nominated
1995 Show Boat Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Musical Won
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Director of a Musical Won
1999 Tony Award Best Direction of a Musical Parade Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Musical Nominated
2006 Tony Award Lifetime Achievement Award Won
2007 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Musical LoveMusik Nominated


  • Prince, Harold, Contradictions: Notes on Twenty-six Years in the Theatre, Dodd, Mead ISBN 0-396-07019-1 (1974 autobiography)
  • Prince, Harold (1993), Grandchild of Kings, Samuel French
  • Hirsch, Foster (1989, rev 2005), Harold Prince and the American Musical Theatre, Applause Books, (with Prince providing extensive interviews and the foreword), ISBN 1-5578-3617-5
  • Ilson, Carol (1989), Harold Prince: From Pajama Game To Phantom of the Opera And Beyond, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-8357-1961-8
  • Ilson, Carol (2000), Harold Prince: A Director's Journey, Limelight Series, Hal Leonard Corporation ISBN 0-8791-0296-9
  • Napoleon, Davi, Chelsea on the Edge: The Adventures of an American Theater, Iowa State University Press (Includes a preface by Prince and a full chapter about the production of Candide)
  • Brunet, Daniel; Angel Esquivel Rios, Miguel; and Geraths, Armin (2006), Creating the "New Musical": Harold Prince in Berlin, Peter Lang Publishing
  • Thelen, Lawrence (1999), The Show Makers: Great Directors of the American Musical Theatre, Routledge
  • Guernsey, Otis L. (Editor) (1985), Broadway Song and Story: Playwrights/Lyricists/Composers Discuss Their Hits, Dodd Mead


  1. ^ a b c d Weber, Bruce (August 1, 2019). "Hal Prince, 91, Dies; Titan Who Twice Gave Broadway Its Best Run". The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  2. ^ Kennedy, Mark (July 31, 2019). "Towering Jewish Broadway director and producer Hal Prince dead at 91". The Times of Israel. Jerusalem.
  3. ^ "Sign In". FamilySearch.
  4. ^ "Harold Prince, consummate Broadway impresario, dies at 91". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  5. ^ a b Arnold, Laurence (July 31, 2019). "Hal Prince, Director Behind 'Phantom' and 'Evita,' Dies at 91". Bloomberg News.
  6. ^ "Harold Prince Biography". filmreference. Retrieved November 25, 2008.
  7. ^ Jacobs, Alexandria (December 1, 2017). "Rolling Merrily Along With Hal Prince". The New York Times. Retrieved July 1, 2018.
  8. ^ "Hal Prince obituary". The Guardian. July 31, 2019. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  9. ^ "The Pajama Game (Broadway, St. James Theatre, 1954)". Playbill. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "Harold Prince Broadway". Playbill Vault. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  11. ^ "Harold Prince Biography and Interview". American Academy of Achievement. June 22, 2007.
  12. ^ "Merrily We Roll Along (Broadway, Neil Simon Theatre, 1981)". Playbill. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  13. ^ a b c d e "Hal Prince dies at 91; Broadway giant won 21 Tonys for musicals including 'Cabaret,' 'Phantom'". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. July 31, 2019.
  14. ^ Hughes, Samuel (March 2010). "Musical Man". The Pennsylvania Gazette. University of Pennsylvania. Archived from the original on August 7, 2020. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  15. ^ Canby, Vincent (December 22, 1994). "'A Doll's Life', New Look at Hypothetical Future of Ibsen's Nora". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Grind ibdb.com. Retrieved July 31, 2019
  17. ^ "The Phantom of the Opera". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  18. ^ Nathans, Aaron (December 5, 1994). "Five American Legends of Arts Are Honored: Culture: Musicians, actor and director receive Kennedy Center awards, tributes from dignitaries in a weekend of events in the capital". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  19. ^ "Harold Prince". arts.gov. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  20. ^ "60th Annual Antoinette Perry "Tony" Awards to Be Presented June 11". Playbill. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  21. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  22. ^ "Announcing Our 2007–2008 Season" The Marquee, Summer, 2007, accessed July 31, 2019.[dead link]
  23. ^ Fick, David (September 22, 2009). "PARADISE FOUND at the Menier Chocolate Factory". Musical Cyberspace. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  24. ^ "Baldwin, Cullum, Hensley and Kaye Will Join Patinkin for London's Paradise Found". Playbill. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  25. ^ "Prince Of Broadway". Tokyu Theatre Orb. Retrieved January 30, 2021.
  26. ^ Chow, Andrew R. (February 1, 2016). "Hal Prince Withdraws From 'The Band's Visit,' and David Cromer Will Direct". ArtsBeat. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  27. ^ Chow, Andrew R. (December 7, 2016). "'Prince of Broadway' Set for Broadway, Finally". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  28. ^ Clement, Olivia (December 7, 2016). " 'Prince of Broadway' Will Open on Broadway This Summer". Playbill.
  29. ^ Stasio, Marilyn (August 25, 2017). "Broadway Review: Harold Prince Revue 'Prince of Broadway'". Variety. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  30. ^ Ericson, Raymond (November 6, 1977). "City Opera Brings Back "Ashmedai". The New York Times.
  31. ^ Turandot Vienna 1983 Marton Carreras Ricciarelli, September 18, 2018, retrieved January 10, 2022
  32. ^ Natale, Richard (July 31, 2019). "Harold Prince, Dominant Force in Broadway Musicals, Dies at 91". Variety. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  33. ^ "Obscure Recordings: Say, Darling". Broadway.com. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  34. ^ "Harold Prince". The Official Masterworks Broadway Site. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  35. ^ "Penn Live Arts: Theatres & Rehearsal Rooms". pennlivearts.org. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  36. ^ "PBS Will Air Encore of Harold Prince: The Director's Life". Playbill. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  37. ^ "Harold Prince: The Director's Life". Great Performances. PBS. October 12, 2018. Retrieved January 30, 2021.
  38. ^ Fierberg, Ruthie (August 12, 2019). "Harold Prince Exhibit at the New York Public Library Sets Opening Date and Programming". Playbill. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  39. ^ "Harold Prince". Kennedy Center. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  40. ^ "Kurt, Lenya, and Hal Prince". Kurt Weill Foundation. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  41. ^ a b Lang, Brent (July 31, 2019). "Hal Prince Remembered: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Joel Grey, Jason Robert Brown Reflect on Theater Giant". Variety. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  42. ^ "Harold Prince, Giant of the Broadway Stage, Dies at 91". Playbill. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  43. ^ "Broadway Theatres to Dim Marquee Lights in Honor of Harold Prince". Playbill. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  44. ^ Fierberg, Ruthie (December 17, 2019). "Inside Broadway's Harold Prince Memorial". Playbill. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  45. ^ a b "Harold Prince – Broadway Cast & Staff | IBDB". ibdb.com. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  46. ^ Collins, Glenn (February 13, 1992). "Harold Prince Bound For Off Off Broadway, And Happy About It: Harold Prince Happily Bound for Off Off Broadway". The New York Times. p. C21.
  47. ^ a b "Grandchild Of Kings". Irish Repertory Theatre (1991–92 Season). Retrieved January 30, 2021.
  48. ^ "The Petrified Prince". iobdb.com. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  49. ^ Harris, Paul (December 22, 1996). "Whistle Down the Wind". Variety. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  50. ^ "Hal Prince Gives New Talent a Showcase With 3hree". Playbill. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  51. ^ "Something for Everyone". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  52. ^ "A Little Night Music". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved July 31, 2019.

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