On Stage: Hal Prince At 90

Apr 23, 2018

Hal Prince is the producer-director behind such musicals as Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, and Cabaret

He's won more Tony awards than anyone in the business of Broadway—21, including eight for Best Musical, eight for Best Direction of a Musical, two for Best Producer, and three special Tony awards for his body of work. At the age of 90, you might think Mr. Prince would be ready for retirement, but instead, he is hard at work on two new musicals.

One of the problems with musicals today, Prince says in his new memoir, is the use of stars to drive the show, rather than the show making stars out of its performers—an exception being Hamilton, he notes, which won the hearts of audiences without the help of established names. Investors today prefer to rely on the pull of a popular performer, which Prince says is ridiculous. “Audiences are quite willing to go where they’ve never been before,” he says. “But producers are not willing to take them there.” He explains he took on the role of producer for West Side Story after Stephen Sondheim told him they had lost the original producer and others showed zero interest in “a musical about gang warfare in Hell's Kitchen.”

The work he has currently undertaken includes a show based on the documentary “How to Dance in Ohio,” which follows a group of autistic children as they work to live up to possibilities; and an as-yet untitled show that he describes as “an old-fashioned musical done in a new-fashioned way.”