Dim all the marquee lights on Broadway — Harold Prince, the producer and director behind many of the American theater’s greatest musicals, died Wednesday at 91, after a brief illness.
In a career that spanned seven decades and netted him 21 Tony Awards, “Hal” Prince, as he was known, had a hand in just about everything. Starting as an assistant stage manager to legendary producer George Abbott, he had his first hit with 1955’s “The Pajama Game.”
From then on, there was a steady stream of successes: “Damn Yankees,” “West Side Story,” “Fiorello!,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Cabaret.” In that 1967 Tony winner, the figure of the leering, pansexual emcee first played by Joel Grey (and later, Alan Cumming) was Prince’s creation: As he told The Post in 2014, he was in postwar Germany with the US Army when he found his prototype in a club with “a little tacky band and an emcee who was pathetic, vulgar and tragic,” surrounded by “three zaftig chorus girls in butterfly costumes doing their routines.”
Over the years, Prince’s collaborators included Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose “Phantom of the Opera” is still running — thanks, some say, to Prince’s surprise visits to the Majestic Theater, conveniently located right near his office.
A few years back, he wondered whether Carlotta the diva had skipped her high note. She had. “Put it back in,” Prince decreed. Hugh Panaro, a former Phantom, recalled one Christine who had an off night during one Prince visit; her contract wasn’t renewed.
Prince is survived by his wife, Judy, daughter Daisy, son Charles, three grandchildren — and the shows he helped bring to life, still playing all around the world.
According to a statement by his press rep, “As per his wishes, there will be no funeral but there will be a celebration of his life this fall with the people he loved most, the members of the theatrical community that he was a part of for seven decades.”
By Barbara Hoffman