What do you give a guy who already has more Tonys (21) than anyone else on Planet Earth? Well, you could give him a gala. If you gave him one ten years ago, give him another one. That's what the American Theatre Wing did Sept. 16 with its [second] star-stacked, all-stops-out salute to Broadway's legendary producer-director, Harold Prince. And it turned out to be a gift that gave right back.
"Tonight, with your help and your generosity, we have created the most successful gala in the history of the Wing — that's 96 years of history," Heather Hitchens, ATW's executive director, proudly beamed as dinner was being served in The Plaza's massive third-floor ballroom. The sellout crowd yielded more than $700,000, which, she promised, would go to the organization's education and outreach programs.
When Hitchens referred to the evening's honoree as "the Prince of Broadway," up popped the reigning prince of Broadway, Cinderella's charming Santino Fontana, as if he had been cued. Indeed, he had been, and he launched into an elaborate musical mash-up of almost 30 hit songs from shows that Prince either produced or directed. He and music director Rob Berman cleverly and speedily arranged them end to end.
The roll call of classic Prince achievements was next classily enumerated by Angela Lansbury — The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, West Side Story, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof, Show Boat, Follies, Evita, Parade, Kiss of the Spider Woman, A Little Night Music, Candide, Company, The Phantom of the Opera, et al (21 Tonys started to seem not nearly enough) — and she thanked him "personally, in public" for anointing her Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd.
Not only did Lansbury host the event (meat-pies were not served) she was also its honorary co-chair, along such name-brand Prince collaborators as Carol Burnett, Stephen Sondhem and Hugh Jackman and the Mrs. (Deborra-Lee Furness).
The agile 85-year-old showman then took to the stage, thanking his "Angie" right off: "It's underestimating the whole relationship to say I love her dearly. I've never been more stimulated or excited rehearsing with an actress, and Angie is one of the greatest actresses of our time." He also complimented Fontana's "brilliant" opening.
"Now, I'm going to talk about me," he said — only he continued to thank people. "To state the obvious, I'm having a hell of a great life! And that is due to two factors." The first was his immediate family — wife Judy, son Charlie, daughter Daisy — "my support team and my cheerleaders. In 51 years, I've never had a boring or a lonely day in my life. How many people can say that? They all possess bright and shiny intelligence, and every one of them is more musical than I. That's my first family.
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