Yesterday, Harold S. Prince celebrated his 90th birthday. A New York native, better known to friends and fans across the world as ‘Hal’, Prince is a producer and director who’s made an indelible contribution to theatre for over six decades.
Prince’s career in theatre began working as an apprentice and stage manager for producer and director, George Abbott. He later began co-producing musicals and earned his first Tony Awards for The Pajama Game (in 1954) and Damn Yankees (in 1955). He was also a co-producer of West Side Story’s original production in 1957, with other producer credits including Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (in 1972) and A Little Night Music (in 1973). In 1964, Prince was the producer of the enduring classic Fiddler on the roof, which remains one of his biggest commercial hits to date.
As a director, Prince’s first taste of major success was for his work on Cabaret in 1966. Other standout directorial highlights include Sweeney Todd (in 1979) and The Phantom of the Opera (in 1986) – a show said to have achieved box office revenues higher than any film or stage play in history. Its estimated gross is US$6 billion (A$7.4 billion).
And when it comes to formal recognition of his work, Prince has received 21 Tony Awards (more than any other individual in the history of the awards) for Best Direction, Best Producer, Best Musical and, in 2006, the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Prince’s remarkable career was celebrated on the Broadway stage last year, when Prince of Broadway had its New York premiere (watch a preview of Prince of Broadway here). The two-and-a-half hour tribute piece, itself directed by Prince, includes three dozen songs from 16 of the hit shows he’s played an integral role in bringing to the stage. Among those shows is Evita.
Evita tells the story of Argentine political figure Eva Perón, the wife of president Juan Perón, following her from her early days through to her own political career and, finally, her death at the age of 33. With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, the musical debuted on London’s West End in June 1978, with Elaine Paige playing Eva Perón. Racking up more than 3,000 performances over almost eight years on the West End, Evita was a stunning success and won The Society of West End Theatre Award (now known as the Olivier Award) for Musical of the Year. Just over a year later, in September 1979, the musical had its Broadway premiere, starring Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin. Similarly, it was a tremendous hit and took out seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, as well as a Best Director nod for Prince.
In ranking Hal Prince’s greatest Broadway musicals for Vulture, Rachel Shukert described Evita as Lloyd Webber’s best musical and said, “[the] production was seriously elevated by Prince’s mastery of spectacle and scale, not to mention his deft, class-conscious touch, which lent just enough sardonic humour to what might otherwise have been an overwrought tale about a ‘simple woman’ who became something akin to a queen.”
In September, 40 years after it first arrived on stage in London, the Sydney Opera House will host a production recreating the original Broadway and West End staging of Evita, starring Tina Arena, one of Australia’s most accomplished female artists, as Eva Perón. And alongside his fellow original West End creative team members, including choreographer Larry Fuller and designer Timothy O’Brien, Prince himself will resume directorial responsibilities in order to ensure the faithful recreation of the iconic production.
At the age of 90, Prince doesn’t appear to be slowing down, with Playbill reporting that the legendary producer and director is working with Alfred Uhry and Craig Carnelia on a musical focused on the four-decade affair between American businessman Diamond Jim Brady and actress and singer Lillian Russell. And, according to Playbill, that’s not all. Prince is also working on a piece based on How to Dance in Ohio, an award-winning documentary that follows three autistic teenage girls preparing to attend their high school formal.
It seems Prince will go on making substantial contributions to the global theatre community. His upcoming work on the 40th anniversary production of Evita represents an incredible opportunity for local musical theatre fans to experience up-close one of his standout directorial achievements. In fact, his work within the shells of the Sydney Opera House will likely result in one of the greatest theatrical events in Sydney in 2018.
Happy birthday to the Prince of Broadway.
EVITA – SEASON DETAILS
Venue: Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Season: From 13 September 2018
Performance times: Tues–Sat 7.30pm, Matinees Wed & Sat 1pm, Sun 3pm
Price: From $109.90*
Bookings: evitathemusical.com.au or 9318 8200 or 02 9250 7777
Groups of 20 or more call 02 9250 7700
* An additional transaction fee and/or a credit/debit payment processing fee may apply