Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County
Theatrical producer and winner of numerous Tony Awards, Hal Prince graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1948.
Awards: Tony Award, Pulitzer Prize
Harold Prince was born January 30, 1928. Prince attended the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. He began producing plays in New York, starting with the production of The Pajama Game. He married Judy Chaplin, and they had two children, Daisy and Charles. He then went on to produce Damn Yankees and West Side Story, which both won Tony Awards. Prince won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiorello! Prince was a record holder for most Tony Awards won. He directed his own plays with a series of unsuccessful productions. He almost gave up producing before the hit Cabaret. Prince also directed operas and directed shows Off Broadway.
Harold Smith Prince was born January 30, 1928, in New York, New York. Prince was born into a privileged upper-middle, lower-rich class German-Jewish family and was an only child. He was exposed to many of the greatest productions and actors of the time, including Orson Welles's Julius Caesar, and Burgess Meredith's Winterset. When he was six and seven his grandmother would take him to her box seats at the Metropolitan Opera. In 1944, he graduated from the Franklin School, a private preparatory school, which was also his grandfather's alma mater.
As a child from age eight to nine, Prince worshiped theater and producers. He knew the history of every famous actor. He obsessed over the New York Public Library on 42nd Street, going through the stacks, reading reviews of plays, reading the plays themselves, and looking at theater designs by Norman Bel Geddes and Stewart Craig. Harold Prince went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a BA in 1948. At college he was a member of the Penn Players. Along with his work in the theater, he also founded and managed the campus radio station and wrote, acted, and directed weekly play adaptations. He enrolled in a liberal arts program with a concentration on English, psychology, philosophy, and history.
After graduating, he wrote plays and sent them to New York producers. After sending one script to ABC-TV, he was referred to the television production office of George Abbott in New York City. He began his association with his mentor, author-director George Abbott, starting off working as his office boy. In 1950, Prince was inducted into the army and stationed in Stuttgart, Germany for two years as an anti-aircraft artillery gunner. There he spent many evenings visiting a nightclub called Maxim's, which would later become the muse for his hit musical Cabaret.
Prince was discharged in October 1952. He immediately returned to work with Abbott and Griffith on several more hit musicals and began to learn the craft of directing from Abbott. In 1954, he began his Broadway producing career with a bang with Pajama Game at age 26. The Pajama Game won the Best Musical Tony Award. This was an honor six other following collaborations with George Abbott would also receive, including: Damn Yankees in 1955, the Pulitzer-winning Fiorello! in 1959, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1962. Prince became much more prominent after 1957 due to two major factors: his collaboration with composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim and his ability to create his own directorial style free from the influences of George Abbott. Prince worked with Griffith, producing West Side Story, which was the first collaboration with lyricist Stephen Sondheim.
In 1957, Prince served as associate producer of his first film credit, The Pajama Game, soon followed by the film adaptation of Damn Yankees. Prince also cultivated relationships with playwrights and songwriters. For example, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick produced the scores for a number of Prince produced shows. Not all of the plays were successful throughout the years. Some were outright flops, such as Tenderloin in 1960. Others were moderately successful, like She Loves Me in 1963. In 1964, Fiddler on the Roof was a true blockbuster and held the title as the longest-running show in Broadway history. In 1964, Prince assumed leadership of the League of New York Theatres from producer Herman Shumlin. He also worked closely with John Kander, directing that composer's first musical A Family Affair in 1962. Prince would go on to collaborate with Sondheim on many more breakthrough productions: Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Pacific Overtures (1976), Sweeney Todd (1979), and Merrily We Roll Along (1981). In the 1980s, Prince had a string of box-office, critical failures, including the musicals A Doll's Life (1982), Grind (1985), and Roza (1986).
He described his philosophy on picking material that challenges him in an interview when he said, "What I've learned over the years is that the impossibly difficult ideas are the best ideas. ... It's the easy, can't-miss ideas that are always a problem for me."
Because of his persistence, his career rebounded following a series of successful collaborations with British composer/lyricist Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. Their productions of Evita (1978) and The Phantom of the Opera (1986) were international successes. In the following years, Prince directed operas, dramas, and musicals, yet none were as successful as his staging of Kiss of the Spider Woman (1992) and Showboat (1997). He directed over 10 operas, was a 1994 Kennedy Center Honoree, and directed shows Off Broadway.
In 2006, Prince won a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. He was very much involved in discovering and encouraging new talent and putting on such relatively risky productions as Three, a trio of one-act musicals which played at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, named in his honor. In 2007, he directed Lovesick, an original musical drama, and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Musical for it. Prince was an advocate for regional theater for a long time.
On Wednesday, July 31, 2019, Hal Prince died at the age of 91 following a brief illness.
The Pajama Game, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 1954.
Damn Yankees, 46th St. Theater, 1955.
West Side Story, Winter Garden Theater, 1957.
Fiorello! Broadhurst Theatre, 1959.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Alvin Theatre, 1962.
Fiddler on the Roof, Imperial Theatre, 1964.
Cabaret, Broadhurst Theatre, 1966.
Follies, Winter Garden Theater 1971.
A Little Night Music, Shuburt Theatre,1973.
Evita, Prince Edward Theatre, 1979.
The Phantom of the Opera, Majestic Theater, 1988.
Show Boat, Ziegfeld Theatre, 1994.
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