Legend is a word that’s overused. But it works for renowned theater producer and director Harold Prince, whose career is celebrated in the hit-and-miss retrospective “Prince of Broadway.”
Prince, known as Hal in the theater world, has earned a record 21 Tonys. His resume reads like a roster of the best and biggest hit musicals of the 20th century. It includes “West Side Story,” “She Loves Me,” “Follies,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Cabaret,” “Company,” “Sweeney Todd” and “The Phantom of the Opera.”
You couldn’t wish for a more ideal place than Broadway to honor Prince. But you could wish for a better, more illuminating show in which to do it.
The revue, co-directed by Prince and choreographer Susan Stroman with musical supervision by Jason Robert Brown, showcases moments from about 20 shows Prince worked on. It’s a clip show. But what clips — and no pledge breaks.
One can’t helped but be impressed by the scope and breadth — but at the same time feel left in the dark about Prince’s precise contributions.
Earlier shows “Fosse” and “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway” honored choreographers by redoing their dances. Stories emerged from the go-to steps. But a perfomer belting “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” doesn’t reveal Prince’s imprint on a song written by other people. Same goes for three dozen more show tunes.
David Thompson’s minimal book does little to deepen understanding. Actors assume Prince’s identity and take turns narrating the show. When they do, they wear eyeglasses on their heads — a signature Prince move. A 2006 Central Park tribute to the showman used the same trick.
In his various guises, Prince alludes to luck, success and failure, unusual projects and finally to just “do the work.” It’s not a deep dive into the mind of a master — more like, Shallow Hal.
If you’re okay with that and want to luxuriate in moments from some wonderful shows, you’ll be entertained by the cast. Chuck Cooper, Janet Dacal, Bryonha Marie Parham, Brandon Uranowitz, Kaley Ann Voorhees and Michael Xavier all get time to shine and take advantage of that to varying degrees.
Highlights include Tony Yazbeck’s tap-tastic “The Right Girl” from “Follies,” Emily Skinner’s wry “Now You Know” from “Merrily We Roll Along ” from “Follies,” and Karen Ziemba’s pragmatic “So What?” from “Cabaret.”
“Prince of Broadway” runs through Oct. 22 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.
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