A Conversation With Groundbreaker Harold Prince On the Occasion of a New Phantom Milestone

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25 Jan 2013

Harold Prince
Harold Prince
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Harold Prince, the visionary director who helped change the face of musical theatre with his productions of Cabaret, Company, Sweeney Todd and more, reflects on his staging of The Phantom of the Opera, which celebrates 25 years on Broadway.


It becomes official Jan. 26: The Phantom of the Opera, with its lush score by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, will have haunted the Majestic a full quarter of a century, and a formal black-tie audience is turning out to see and celebrate the historical performance that marks that spot — much like the black-tie audience that welcomed the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical to town Jan. 26, 1988.

Incredibly, this 25th anniversary of the Broadway show falls on the same week as the 85th birthday (Jan. 30) of the man that producer Cameron Mackintosh hired to helm the epic: Harold S. (for Smith) Prince, a.k.a. "Hal" and, sometimes, Prince Hal — one of the major hit-makers of the 20th century, with a Tony stockpile numbering 21 (so far — and doubtlessly more to come since the director is under the impression he's 60 or something and behaving accordingly, with a number of new musicals-in-the-making on his docket).

Neither he nor his Phantom show signs of winding down as you'll gather from this phone interview conducted Jan. 24, on a bitterly cold winter day in New York. A warm sun was shining in Prince's world, though.

I hope you're not at your office; I hope you didn't have to go out in this weather.
Harold Prince: No, no. I am in Miami.

So smart. Ahead of the game, as usual.
HP: But I'm certainly coming in [to New York] later today. Come to think of it, tomorrow it's going to be snowing.

But that's a good omen. It snowed the night Les Misérables opened, and it was a late snow, too — a March snow.
HP: Well, I guess we don't need an omen this weekend.

I know. I don't know whether to say "Happy Anniversary" or "Happy Birthday."
HP: Thank you.

Isn't it remarkable these two events synchronized — your 85th birthday and the 25th anniversary of Phantom, in the same week?
HP: I certainly don't feel as old as the show. First of all, let me tell you about the 85th. I completely ignore it. My wife said, "Do you want to do anything? It'd be lovely if I could get some people for a party." And I said, "No, nothing." She said, "Well, maybe we should have some dinner out somewhere, but I don't feel like you want dinner." I said, "Not really. Why don't we just forget it? Until I feel remotely my age, why don't we just drop it?" So, that's how I feel about it. As far as I'm concerned, it's just the 25th anniversary of Phantom [we're celebrating].

HP: Now, did I ever dream it would happen? No, of course not. I knew [from staging the London production] we had a hit, but, in the theatre that I was raised in, a long run was 1,000 performances. That was a big, big hit. Then, My Fair Lady ran five years. But [a 25th anniversary] is another world, and I'm happy to have been part of it.


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