The Broadway community is mourning the loss of Harold "Hal" Prince, the producer and director behind some of the American musical theatre's biggest hits

By Dave Quinn
July 31, 2019 01:32 PM
Walter McBride/Getty

Harold “Hal” Prince, one of the most significant figures in American musical theatre history known as the “Prince of Broadway,” died on Wednesday morning after a brief undisclosed illness. He was 91.

The Broadway director and producer was in Reykjavik, Iceland at the time of his death, according to his press agent.

“He is missed and loved by his family — Judy, his wife of 56 years; his daughter, Daisy; his son, Charles; and his grandchildren, Phoebe, Lucy, and Felix,” a statement about Prince’s death read. “As per his wishes, there will be no funeral but there will be a celebration of his life this fall with the people he loved most, the members of the theatrical community.”

During his seven-decade career, Prince was known for shepherding some of the most groundbreaking shows to hit Broadway, including The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, West Side Story, Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof, Company, Sweeney Todd, and the Great White Way’s longest-running musical, The Phantom of the Opera. 

Prince was awarded properly, taking home 21 Tony Awards — more than any other individual in multiple categories.

The New York Native, born Jan. 30, 1928 in Manhattan, began his career in the industry during its heyday and pushed the art form through some of its most challenging eras in the 20th century.

He was an stage manager first, working on the 1950 musical revue Tickets, Please! and later on the original Broadway production of Call Me Madam (1950) and Wonderful Town (1953).

From there, Prince would turn to producing, collaborating with Call Me Madam and Wonderful Town‘s director George Abbott to co-produce The Pajama Game in 1954. That show would earn Prince his first Tony for best musical

His next few works as a producer were equally triumphant. Damn Yankees (1956), Fiorello! (1960), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1963), and Fiddler on the Roof (1965) all earned best musical Tonys. Fiorello! won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. West Side Story (1957), meanwhile, became a cultural phenomenon.

Chita Rivera with the cast of West Side Story

In 1962, Prince directed his first Broadway show, A Public Affair. He would continue as a director for years to come, sometimes even on shows he was also producing (like 1963’s She Loves Me; 1966’s It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman; 1974’s Candide, and 1966’s Cabaret, which earned Prince his first Tony for best director).

Prince was a frequent collaborator with legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, beginning first with West Side Story and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. With Sondheim, Prince produced and directed Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Pacific Overtures (1976), Merrily We Roll Along (1981). He also directed the 1977 revue Side by Side by Sondheim, the original Broadway production of Sweeney Todd (1979).

He always makes me want to go to the piano and write,” Sondheim told NPR’s All Things Considered in 2017. “I always leave meetings with Hal just bursting with ideas. Hal’s as stimulating as anybody I’ve ever met.”

Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford in The Phantom of the Opera
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Many of Prince’s works are praised for advancing the musical in radical, bold ways.

Fiddler on the Roof, which Prince produced in 1965, was praised for showing how a musical could speak to all generations and culture in a time when the popularity of the art form was being threatened. It ran for more than 3,000 performances on Broadway.

The Phantom of the Opera proved ushered in in the boom of British musicals coming to the states. It’s still running today.

Phantom mastermind Andrew Lloyd Webber remembered Prince in a statement to PEOPLE: “Farewell, Hal. Not just the prince of musicals, the crowned head who directed two of the greatest productions of my career, Evita and Phantom. This wonderful man taught me so much and his mastery of musical theatre was without equal.”

Other hits in Prince’s unparalleled career include On the Twentieth Century (1978), Evita (1980), Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993), Parade (1998) and Lovemusik (2007).

Prince earned his final Tony as director for the 1995 revival of Show Boat. A 2006 Tony, his 21st, was for lifetime achievement.

His final Broadway credit was 2017’s Prince of Broadway, a musical that re-created numbers from his catalogue of successes.