HAROLD “HAL” PRINCE, who won a record 21 Tony Awards as producer and director of some of Broadway’s biggest hits of the second half of the 20th century including The Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, and Evita, died on Wednesday at age 91.
Mr. Prince died after a brief illness in Reykjavik, Iceland, his publicist said.
Mr. Prince was famed for his dynamic collaborations with two composers, American Stephen Sondheim and Briton Andrew Lloyd Webber and had been a protégé of legendary Broadway showman George Abbott.
Mr. Prince became a wunderkind producer in the 1950s with hits including West Side Story, the groundbreaking re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
He turned to directing in the 1960s with hits including Cabaret, set in decadent Berlin amid the rise of the Nazis, for which he won the first of eight Tonys as best director.
He joined with Mr. Sondheim to create a series of sophisticated musicals in the 1970s, then teamed with Mr. Lloyd Webber for the blockbusters Evita and The Phantom of the Opera, which became the longest-running show in Broadway history.
“He’s the best director of musicals around by far,” Mr. Sondheim, whose work with Mr. Prince included the 1970s musicals Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, and Sweeney Todd, said in a 1984 interview with Prince biographer Carol Ilson.
“He has a more acute ear than most producers. He takes it seriously and is more daring, imaginative and endlessly creative. He likes to take chances,” Mr. Sondheim said.
In 1979, Mr. Prince directed two huge hits that opened within months of each other on Broadway.
In March, Sweeney Todd — the macabre tale of a murderous barber set to Mr. Sondheim’s music — made its debut. In September, Mr. Prince brought Evita to New York from London, where it had opened the previous year, telling the story of Eva Peron, the magnetic wife of Argentine strongman Juan Peron, with Mr. Lloyd Webber’s music.
Mr. Prince rebounded from a handful of 1980s misfires with his biggest hit. The Phantom of the Opera — the story of a disfigured musical genius obsessed with a young operatic soprano — opened in London in 1986, then took Broadway by storm in 1988.
“There is not a single scene in the show that does not have a surprise in it,” Mr. Prince told Playbill in 2011 of Phantom.
“Sometimes it’s fire that you don’t know is going to be there, sometimes it’s a voice, sometimes it’s a piano playing by itself, but there’s always something. And sometimes it’s a piece of scenery almost falling on a diva,” Mr. Prince said.
Mr. Prince was active well into his 80s including directing Leonard Bernstein’s Candide in 2017.
Mr. Prince is survived by his two children and his wife of 56 years, Judith Chaplin, the daughter of composer Saul Chaplin. — Reuters