Tony-Winning Director-Producer Hal Prince On His 10 Favorite Theatregoing Experiences

Their Favorite Things   Tony-Winning Director-Producer Hal Prince On His 10 Favorite Theatregoing Experiences
 
In 2013 the legendary producer and director reflected on his decades of theatregoing.
Performing_Arts_Hall_Of_Fame_2017_08_HR.jpg
Harold Prince Joseph Marzullo/WENN

In 2013 Harold Hal Prince, the multiple Tony Award–winning producer and director who passed away July 31, was celebrating the 25th Broadway anniversary of his Tony-winning production of The Phantom of the Opera, which continues at the Majestic Theatre. At that time we asked the Broadway legend to share the Broadway performances that most affected him as part of the audience.

“These are 10 choice productions that I remember vividly," Prince told Playbill at the time. “However, there are ’tens’ of other productions I admire just as much, maybe more, or maybe almost as much.”

Julius Caesar

<i>Julius Caesar</i>
Julius Caesar

Orson Welles' modern-dress production was produced by the Mercury Theatre, and I saw it when I was nine years old. It was both monumental and minimalist.

Moby Dick – Rehearsed

<i>Moby Dick</i>
Moby Dick

Another minimalist production by Welles (pictured), which I saw at the Duke of York's Theatre in London. It was indescribably imaginative and moving.

Porgy and Bess

Todd Duncan and Anne Brown in <i>Porgy and Bess</i>
Todd Duncan and Anne Brown in Porgy and Bess

Both the original in 1935 and the revival in 1942 were brilliantly realized musically and in performance. They both starred Todd Duncan and Anne Brown, but later in the revival's run, Etta Moten, who the Gershwins originally wrote the opera for, brilliantly replaced Anne Brown.

Long Day's Journey Into Night

<i>Long Day&#39;s Journey Into Night</i>
Long Day's Journey Into Night

I saw the original production five times in its first two weeks. I've always been staggered by O'Neill, and this production was perfect.

South Pacific

Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin in South Pacific.
Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin in South Pacific. John Swope / The New York Public Library

I was lucky to attend the opening night at the Majestic, and it was epic in every respect. Not only were the performances pluperfect, but so was the staging. It was the first and most successful use of continuous action in a musical. Up until that time, we expected utility music from the orchestra pit to play while the scene changes were made. It was a convention, and South Pacific changed all that.

Jumbo

<i>Jumbo</i>
Jumbo Vandamm Studio

The first collaboration of Rodgers, Hart, and George Abbott (his first musical directorial assignment). I saw it in the old Hippodrome as a child. It was an environmental production, taking place in a circus ring, and it began with Paul Whiteman on a white horse and his entire orchestra following him, playing the overture. It was a kid's dream.

Lady in the Dark

Gertrude Lawrence and Bert Lytell in <i>Lady in the Dark</i>
Gertrude Lawrence and Bert Lytell in Lady in the Dark Vandamm Studio

It was as innovative and glamorous an evening as I've ever witnessed in the theatre. The performances were charming and bold and the subject (psychoanalysis) was unique.

West Side Story

Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert in <i>West Side Story</i>
Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert in West Side Story

It was daring and brilliantly successful. The first time I had seen Bernstein and Robbins collaborate was On the Town, which I loved. But West Side Story was a watershed experience—not just for its creators, but for the theatre.

Cabaret

Joel Grey and cast in <i>Cabaret</i>
Joel Grey and cast in Cabaret Friedman-Abeles/©NYPL for the Performing Arts

It was groundbreaking. We ignored a lot of the prevailing rules and told the story in a form unlike any previous musical, which set the stage for many similarly-structured shows.

The Phantom of the Opera

Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford in The Phantom of the Opera.
Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford in The Phantom of the Opera.

Finally, of course, I must mention The Phantom of the Opera. After all, it's celebrating 25 years on Broadway and still going strong.

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