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What Broadway legend Harold Prince meant to American theater


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Judy Woodruff: Finally tonight: A Broadway great has died.

Director and producer Harold Prince won an astonishing 21 Tony Awards with shows that became household names and whose popularity endures even now.

This is part of our ongoing arts and culture series, Canvas.

Harold "Hal" Prince was full of surprises and created memorable works still being performed many years after their debuts.

He started first as a producer of shows such as "The Pajama Game," "Damn Yankees," "West Side Story," "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," and "Fiddler on the Roof."

Talking to the "NewsHour" in 1986, he had this to say about his career:

Hal Prince: When I went into the theater, it cost $250,000 to do a musical. Most of us were neophytes. We got our experience right on the spot. It is overwhelming, the experience of having a $4 million investment on your shoulders.

Judy Woodruff: Eric Schaeffer is the longtime artistic director of Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, and staged many of Prince's plays over the years.

In fact, Signature, which won a Tony Award for best regional theater in the country, honored Prince for his work in 2013.

Eric Schaeffer: He was an icon.

And when you were growing up, you were like, if I can live up to be like Hal Prince, that would amazing. He was a captain of the ship. And whenever there was problems, he always made it looked like there were none, and made it easy, smooth sailing.

Judy Woodruff: Prince went on to direct landmark musicals such as "Cabaret," "Company," "Follies," "Sweeney Todd," "Evita," and "Phantom of the Opera."

During his over-50-year career, Prince received two special Tony's, in addition to the 21 statues, when, in 1972, "Fiddler" became Broadway's longest running musical, and then again two years later for a revival of "Candide." He also received a Kennedy Center Honor and was known as a master collaborator, the Prince of Broadway.

In a feature for PBS' "Great Performances," Prince discussed the change he's seen in Broadway since he started his career as a director.

Hal Prince: I wanted to provoke conversation. I wanted issues on the stage, as they had been in my youth.

Judy Woodruff: It was with legendary Stephen Sondheim, who was the lyricist for "West Side Story," that Prince developed a long-lasting friendship and professional partnership. They went on to work on "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and many more.

Eric Schaeffer: Their relationship changed American musical theater. All of their work was groundbreaking, in the sense that it was either pushing the style or the form of the musical theater, but also the stories that they were telling.

They were telling stories that no else would tell. And that's kind of amazing.

Judy Woodruff: Prince's publicist said he died in Iceland after a brief illness.

Harold Prince was 91.

Wonderful to remember him and his amazing career.

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