“I’ve been in love with the theatre since I was eight years old,” Hal Prince told a group of journalists, all in awe of the man before them. “I share an obsession, [an] infatuation with the work we do and the people with whom we work.”
For the 21-time Tony-winning director and producer, that infatuation is what his long-awaited Prince of Broadway is about. “I would like to think it’s not about me,” he says.
Or as Prince of Broadway co-conspirator David Thompson (the show’s book writer) says, “Hal doesn’t ever want it to be about himself [but] it is about him.”
And that’s what audiences can expect when Prince of Broadway begins performances August 3 at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Through the compilation of excerpts from 16 Hal Prince musicals (“That’s about half, I guess, of what I’ve done,” Prince says) and three new songs by Tony winner Jason Robert Brown, nine performers co-directed by Prince and Tony winner Susan Stroman explore the man—his philosophies, his life—through his work.
“If you think about it, any time you think of a Hal Prince musical you can get it down to one name, one character and you know exactly what that musical is about,” says Thompson. “Tony, Maria, Evita, Pseudolus, Sally Bowles, the Emcee, Sweeney Todd, Phantom. That’s Hal’s work.”
And audiences can expect to see these characters and others in scenes from Cabaret, A Little Night Music, Follies, The Phantom of the Opera, Flora the Red Menace, Company, Parade, and more.
While Prince’s stories connect passages chosen from the shows in his catalog, the theatrical works are the focus. “What Hal always wants to do is get you right to the place where you see that story being told,” says Thompson. “So when you see that moment in Sweeney Todd or Cabaret or Evita you say, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to see those people do that show.’”
The excerpts these powerhouses perform—from Janet Dacal and Michael Xavier in It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane…It’s Superman to Emily Skinner and Chuck Cooper in Company to Brandon Uranowitz and Karen Ziemba in Cabaret and more—are not abbreviations. They are fully realized reincarnations, memories plucked from six decades on Broadway. “The scenery and the costumes are recollections through memory of what the originals were,” says Prince, “and every set—if you can find it—has the name of the original designer.
“It’s a continuum,” he says with a smile. “That’s what the theatre is and I think that’s another reason why it’s so damned exciting.”
Prince is also excited about the people on the stage. “An unparalleled nine people,” Prince beams. “I’m mad about them. Every one is a force.”
Glancing around the room at his cast and creative team, Prince says, “You’re just about as good as the work you’re given to work on, I learned that a long time ago. So we work with the best.”
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