Hal Prince, King of Broadway and “Phantom of the Opera” Director, Has Died at 91

He changed musical theater forever with shows from "West Side Story" to "Sweeney Todd"

Hal Prince The Phantom of the Opera Rehearsal
Harold Prince, pictured here at a rehearsal for “The Phantom of the Opera” in Russia, has died at 91.
Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS via Getty
By Alex Lauer / July 31, 2019 1:21 pm

You may not know Harold Prince’s name, but he’s been the director and/or producer of some of the most acclaimed and long-running Broadway musicals of all time: The Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Sweeney Todd and Evita, just to name a few.

Today, the musical theater legend more commonly known as Hal Prince died in Iceland at the age of 91, a spokesman confirmed to The New York Times.

Prince may not have been as well known outside the theater community as the composers and lyricists who he collaborated with, most notably Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim, but he has received 21 Tony Awards, including a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, more than anyone else in multiple categories.

The length of Prince’s career, breadth of work and impact on the art form is almost unparalleled. As the Times notes, when he notched his first producing gig on The Pajama Game in 1954 (for which he won his first Tony Award), Rodgers and Hammerstein were the kings of Broadway. Today, the original New York production of The Phantom of the Opera, which he directed, is still running after 31 years and over 13,000 performances. And West Side Story, which he co-produced, is getting a high-profile film remake courtesy of Steven Spielberg. 

Broadway is a notorious make-or-break industry, but Prince outlasted many of his peers. He even lived to see Merrily We Roll Along — a 1981 flop that ended his longtime collaboration with composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim — become a cult classic.

“This wonderful man taught me so much and his mastery of musical theatre was without equal,” wrote Andrew Lloyd Webber in a tribute on Instagram alongside a photo from the original production of The Phantom of the Opera.

The list of Prince’s famous collaborators goes on (Leonard Bernstein, Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins) and so do his credits (Follies, Company, a Broadway revival of Show Boat). And rest assured, no matter what changes Broadway and musical theater see in the coming decades, the shows he helped create will go on, too.

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