Book by David Thompson; Music and Lyrics by Various; Directed by Harold Prince
Produced by Manhattan Theatre Club
Broadway, Musical Revue
Runs through 10.22.17
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street
by Regina Robbins on 8.25.17
Michael Xavier and company in Prince of Broadway. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
BOTTOM LINE: If you love the classic musicals of the twentieth century, you'll be in your happy place at Prince of Broadway.
The name Harold Prince is shorthand for “Broadway legend.” The winner of an unmatched twenty-one Tony Awards, Prince began working in the theatre in the late 1940s and, over the course of his career, has produced and/or directed an astonishing number of groundbreaking musicals. Still with us and still working, he now directs Prince of Broadway, a show that looks back at some of the highlights of those seven decades (and counting).
The love and respect Hal Prince commands from his colleagues is impossible to overstate. Just take a look at the other creatives on Prince of Broadway: co-director and choreographer Susan Stroman (who herself has five Tonys), arranger and orchestrator Jason Robert Brown (three Tonys), and costumer William Ivey Long (six Tonys), for starters. The cast is also absurdly overqualified, ranging from well-loved stage vets like Chuck Cooper and Karen Ziemba to hot new kids on the block Brandon Uranowitz and Kaley Ann Voorhees. They’re all bringing their A-game to this journey through one man’s career and our collective Broadway history.
Musical theatre nerds will likely get chills multiple times (I did) during this show, watching top-tier talent going to town on numbers from West Side Story, Evita, and Sweeney Todd—for starters. Conversely, if your knowledge of Broadway goes no further back than Phantom of the Opera (also directed by Prince), you might find yourself a bit confused when scenes from She Loves Me and A Little Night Music pop up with no introduction or explanation. Prince’s résumé is so overstuffed that well-known shows like A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Zorba don’t even make the cut here, but we are treated to a slice of 1966’s It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…It’s Superman—beloved by critics but not so much by audiences, we’re told.
Prince of Broadway reminds us of the special relationship between Prince and Stephen Sondheim, including material from six of the eight shows they worked on together. Watching Emily Skinner channel the ghost of Elaine Stritch on “Ladies Who Lunch” from Company, or Tony Yazbeck tapping for his life during “The Right Girl” from Follies, one wonders whether Sondheim’s career would have gone as well as it has without Prince as a creative partner. Despite the show’s “walk down memory lane” structure, however, it is admirably contemporary when it comes to casting, and it’s frankly a delight to see Bryonha Marie Parham, an actress of color, killing it as Sally Bowles in Cabaret as well as Queenie in Show Boat. (The African-American Cooper as Fiddler on the Roof’s Tevye is also…interesting.)
Despite its many appealing elements, Prince of Broadway doesn’t match up to other “career retrospective” shows like Fosse, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, or Side by Side by Sondheim (which was directed on Broadway by…Harold Prince). The work of a choreographer or composer is inherently more cohesive than that of a director-producer, particularly in the context of Broadway; the breadth of styles Prince’s career encompasses is, ironically, something of a weakness where a revue is concerned. That said, there are far worse ways to spend an evening than watching some of the most talented people in New York perform some of musical theatre’s most iconic and beloved songs, along with some underappreciated gems. We can only hope that a future Sondheim gets inspired by Prince of Broadway.
(Prince of Broadway plays at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street, through October 22, 2017. The running time is 2 hours 30 minutes with an intermission. Performances through September 3rd are Mondays and Tuesdays at 7, Wednesdays at 2 and 7, Thursdays and Fridays at 8, and Saturdays at 2 and 8; beginning September 5th, performances are Tuesdays at 7, Wednesdays at 2 and 7, Thursdays and Fridays at 8, Saturdays at 2 and 8, and Sundays at 2. Tickets are $89-$179 and are available at telecharge.com or by calling 212-239-6200. For more information visit princeofbway.com.)
Prince of Broadway is by David Thompson, with Music and Lyrics by various. Directed by Harold Prince. Co-Direction and Choreography is by Susan Stroman. New Songs, Arrangements, Orchestrations and Musical Supervision by Jason Robert Brown. Scenic and Projection Design is by Beowulf Boritt. Costume Design is by William Ivey Long. Lighting Design is by Howell Binkley. Sound Design is by Jon Weston. Production Stage Manager is Jeffrey T. Livoti.
The cast is Chuck Cooper, Janet Dacal, Bryonha Marie Parham, Emily Skinner, Brandon Uranowitz, Kaley Ann Voorhees, Michael Xavier, Tony Yazbeck, and Karen Ziemba.