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Hal to Be “Prince of Broadway” in New Musical

June 21st, 2011

Image via Google.

After coercing operatic stalkers, murderous barbers and fascist dictators into singing, legendary Broadway Producer and Director Harold “Hal” Prince may be tackling his most difficult subject matter of all: himself. Producers announced the creative team for a new musical titled Prince of Broadway and featuring selections from his nearly 60 years in the theater. Prince will co-direct alongside director/choreographer Susan Stroman (The Producers), with a book by David Thompson (The Scottsboro Boys) and new vocal and dance arrangements by Jason Robert Brown (Parade). The production is aiming for a summer 2012 tryout in Toronto and a “Main Stem” debut the subsequent fall.

It sounds like Prince is getting the full Jerome Robbins’ Broadway anthology treatment, which begs the question: which musical numbers from his blockbuster shows would you most want to see recreated or reinterpreted?  Tell me your top choices in the comments.

To get the conversation going, I’ll start with three darkly unorthodox choices that might shake-up the crowd-pleasing blockbuster tone and showcase Prince’s adventurous side. One note: although Prince of Broadway will feature songs from shows he produced, I limited myself to his directorial efforts; feel free to roam the full catalog (West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Damn Yankees and more).

“Factory Girls/Come Up to My Office” from Parade. I just love the way this sequence plays on multiple levels (as trial drama, showbiz showstopper and nightmare). I never saw the original production and I think it would be a revelation to see it fully staged. This is one of the things that musical theater can do better than other forms: twist, combine and heighten contradictory elements. (This recording is from the more recent London production and not from the Hal Prince original Broadway version.)

“Pretty Women” from Sweeney Todd. I know, I know. This is hardly an unorthodox show in his catalog and there are certainly a number of amazing choices which will certainly be in the mix. Yes, “A Little Priest” is perfection. Just to be contradictory, I almost picked “Kiss Me Quartet” and its dizzying suspense, humor and romance. (Its use of the word “reticule” alone makes me glow to the very tips of my flaxen hair.) But, with what I assume will be so many big production numbers, I’d love to see this gorgeous, simple duet focus in on the stylishness and character defining acuity of Prince’s direction. (The song actually doesn’t get going until 5:40 in the clip, but why wouldn’t you watch the whole scene.)

A Song from Grind. This 1985 show about racial tension at a vaudeville theater is a natural fit in Prince’s show biz world menaced by dark undertones. I could only find video of the frenetic opening number but a recent York Theatre Musical in Mufti performance of Grind reminded me that there are a number of worthwhile sequences that would be a breath of fresh–though cynical–air to most theatergoers. (One song featuring the African-American men of the cast all being called “George” still sticks in my mind as wonderfully unsettling, though it seems not to have been in the original Broadway version. Anyone know more about this?) Plus, I’d love to see the underappreciated work of composer Larry Grossman get the spotlight on Broadway.

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