This Is Why the LGBTQ Community Will Mourn the Death of Hal Prince

As far as we know, Hal Prince was not gay. But in the course of his extraordinary career in theater, he changed the lives of countless members of the LGBTQ community. He crafted enduring works with some of our most brilliant artists. As a producer and director, he employed performers and crew who are part of our queer family. And he brought hope, joy and release to the many of us who love the theater.

Side by Side by Sondheim

Fans may best remember Prince’s work with Stephen Sondheim. Prince co-produced some of Sondheim’s earliest collaborations, including West Side Story and A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum. Among the composer’s other shows that Prince helped usher to the Broadway stage are Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd and Merrily We Roll Along. He also directed the Liz Taylor-starring adaptation of A Little Night Music and the later Sondheim stage effort Bounce

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Beyond Sondheim

But a man does not win 21 Tony Awards producing Sondheim alone. His lengthy career spanned multiple Broadway “Golden Ages.” Prince worked on the Ethel Merman vehicle Call Me Madam. He was a producer of the “Steam Heat” generating Pajama Game. And he helped solidify Gwen Verdon’s stardom with Damn Yankees. Later, he brought us the romance of She Loves Me. He also shook Broadway with the thoughtful meditation on tradition of Fiddler on the Roof and the culture-changing Cabaret.

After that came Prince’s smash hit collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber, including Patti-Lupone belting out the title role of Evita and Sarah Brightman hitting the high notes of The Phantom of the Opera. He also directed the extraordinary, queer-themed stage adaptation of Kiss of the Spider Woman (giving us both Chita Rivera and Vanessa Williams in the title role) and the spectacularly reimagined revival of the American classic Showboat, featuring the unforgettable Elaine Stritch. And those are just some highlights from the more than 60 productions Prince helped bring to life.

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Hal Prince with Toni Morrison courtesy the American Academy of Achievement

Who’s that Hal?

Though Prince notably spent most of his time behind-the-scenes, it’s worth noting that versions of him have been played by several actors of note. On the silver screen, Prince inspired John Lithgow’s character (Lucas Sergeant) in Bob Fosse’s autobiographical All That Jazz. And more recently, Evan Handler (pictured above) played Prince in FX’s extraordinary Fosse/Verdon. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences nominated the series for 17 Emmy Awards.

Poetically, the last show Prince directed was a revue of his career entitled Prince of Broadway. He died July 31, 2019 in Reykyavík, Iceland, and is survived by spouse Judy Prince, daughter Daisy Prince, son Charles Prince and three grandchildren.

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Paul Hagen

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