Hal Prince, a giant in the theater community, died July 31 at the age of 91. In a career that spanned six decades, he directed and produced some of the greatest shows in Broadway history and became a key collaborator for the likes of Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber. His list of credits includes Tony Award winners and blockbusters such as “Cabaret,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Evita,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “A Little Night Music” and “Sweeney Todd.” To memorialize Prince’s impact on the theater business, Variety spoke with several of his friends and collaborators.
Alfred Uhry, playwright, “LoveMusik” (2007) and “Parade” (1998)
There’s a story about Hal that I’ve always treasured.
It seems to encapsulate what he was. Years ago the family had a house in Majorca. Hal’s daughter, Daisy, was 10 or 11, and one night a bat flew into her room. She screamed and ran to wake up her father. She told him there was a big bat flying around in her room. He went to the room, looked at the bat and said one word in his mightiest tone: “Out!” The bat immediately departed. Hal had things under control.
I felt safe in his presence. I can’t believe he’s gone.
Joel Grey, actor, “Cabaret” (1966)
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He had total confidence. I can rarely remember him being dogged by a problem. If he couldn’t figure it out right away, he’d come in the next day with a better idea. … He always welcomed input and collaboration. He always gave the people he worked with a lot of freedom to try things out. He was a complicated, complex genius.
Andrew Lloyd Webber, composer, “Phantom of the Opera” (1986) and “Evita” (1978)
He was an extraordinary man of the theater. When we worked on “Phantom,” he was completely at one with the material. He realized that the theater needed to become the opera house and that the audience needed to feel like they were a part of the action that was going on around them. He was a master of stagecraft.
Jason Robert Brown, composer-lyricist, “Parade”
His legacy may be in the many people he put out his hand to and helped out. He gave so many of us a career. He didn’t do it out of an innate generosity, but because he wanted to work with people he found interesting and who had something to say. That type of
mentorship is vanishing, but Hal did it really well.
Mandy Patinkin, actor, “Evita”
We were doing “Evita,” and after a few weeks of his absence I would call him up and let him know that the company needed another Hal pep talk. Then he would come in and infuse everyone with his enthusiasm, and focus the company’s performances for the next few weeks. We would always be so much richer and full of life and energy and everything that defines Hal, which is that heightened reality that you get in the theater. That is Hal Prince.
(Pictured: Hal Prince, Dale Kristien and Michael Crawford, the cast for the Los Angeles company of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera,” rehearses in New York.)