Broadway stars came out in droves on September 16 to salute legendary director and producer Harold Prince, a man who gave many of them—including Glenn Close, Sierra Boggess and Rebecca Luker—their first big break. The American Theatre Wing paid tribute to the director at a black-tie gala at the Plaza Hotel, where he was joined by dozens of actors who appeared in his productions. We already know Prince jumped from producing in the 1950s to become the director of The Phantom of the Opera, Cabaret, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Evita, Parade and so many more, but we had no idea he’s a secret soap opera watcher! Read below to get the scoop on the celebrated director from five Broadway stars who know him best.
"Hal Prince is one of my greatest mentors. He gave me my start, and I’ll be grateful to him forever. I love his use of the word “swell.” It’s a lost word, and it’s so endearing, that to him, life is just “swell.” I have so many funny stories about him. When we were doing The Phantom of the Opera in Las Vegas, they sold bustiers with little Phantom masks on them in the merchandise booth. I said, 'Hal, did you know they’re selling corsets in the lobby?' And he said, 'It’s for the ho in your life.' Oh, Hal Prince! That was one of the highlights of my life."
"I started auditioning for Harold Prince when I was still in college at UCLA, and he hired me in On the Twentieth Century fairly quickly. He has this wonderful way of finding young talent and giving them a chance. He also has the greatest eye. Aside from theater, I know he was skiing a lot; he and [wife] Judy have a place up in the French Alps. I wish I could slide down a mountain with him—I’d love to do that!"
"Hal cast me in my first Broadway show, The Phantom of the Opera, and I’ll never forget how kind and helpful he was. It was just amazing to me that I was involved with that. He’s such an adorable, lovely man, and by all accounts, he’s the same Hal that he was 50 years ago. I’ve heard a rumor that he likes to watch soap operas, and that’s his little guilty pleasure!"
"Hal Prince was my first professional director. I had just graduated from college, and Hal hired me to play Angelica in Love For Love. I mean, I got my Equity card just because Hal hired me. He really took a chance! In that moment, he taught me to go with my instincts, because that’s what he did with me."
"Anybody who works in the theater owes Hal Prince a huge debt of gratitude. For me, it was all summed up in his production of Sweeney Todd, which is—forget about Cats—now and forever the most inspiring show I’ve ever seen. It’s always a better day after spending time with Hal. He couldn’t be kinder or smarter or more brilliant. He only takes on the projects that really speak to him, and that is so inspiring to me."