The late great Harold Prince will be celebrated on Sunday at the 65th Annual Drama Desk Awards.
May 22, 2020: The 65th Annual Drama Desk Awards will celebrate the life and legacy of American theater producer and director Harold “Hal” Prince with the Drama Desk’s newly established lifetime achievement honor. The Harold Prince Award will be bestowed annually for outstanding contributions to theater, and the posthumous award will be given in his honor this year. Prince passed away on July 31, 2019, at the age of 91.
Among his many accolades, Hal Prince earned 10 Drama Desk Awards over the course of his distinguished career. In addition to his significant role in shaping the New York theatrical landscape during the second half of the 20th century, Prince is a born and raised New Yorker. The Drama Desk Awards celebrate New York theater and were also founded in the city. The pairing is fitting.
“It is nearly impossible to overstate Hal Prince’s contributions to the theater community, both onstage and off,” Charles Wright and David Barbour, Drama Desk Co-Presidents, said. “Through countless productions over the course of his life, Mr. Prince’s legacy is reflected every day on Broadway and beyond, and we are thrilled to honor that legacy with the establishment of The Harold Prince Award.”
“The Drama Desk Awards are honored and humbled to serve as the home of this significant new distinction,” Matt Britten, Drama Desk Awards executive producer and Broadway Brands CEO, said. “Particularly this year, and certainly into the future, the Prince Award will serve as an inspiring and impactful new tradition for the theater community.”
The 65th Annual Drama Desk Awards will be announced during a special presentation of Spectrum News NY1’s On Stage on Sunday, May 31, at 7:30 PM. The awards special also will stream on NY1.com, and DramaDeskAwards.com. Additional details will be announced over the coming weeks.
Harold Smith Prince was born on January 30, 1928 in Manhattan. He graduated with a liberal arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania and served two years in the U.S. Army in Germany post-World War II before beginning work in the arts.
Prince’s Broadway career began as assistant stage manager on the musical revue Tickets, Please! (1950). He took on a similar role in the original Broadway production of Call Me Madam (1950)—collaborating with director George Abbott—and moved up as full stage manager and understudy to the role of Frank Lippencott in the original Broadway mounting of Wonderful Town (1953).
Abbott brought Prince on for his first major success as co-producer—the musical comedy The Pajama Game (1954)—which would earn Prince his first Tony Award for Best Musical. He followed up that project with Best Musical Tony wins for the original Damn Yankees (1956), Fiorello! (1960) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1963), the latter being his first in a series of collaborations with the legendary Stephen Sondheim. The next Tony-winning hit for Prince was the original production of Fiddler on the Roof (1965), which ran for more than 3,000 performances on Broadway.
The Broadway premiere of the now-iconic musical Cabaret (1966) marked Prince’s first acclaimed work as a director. Prince took home the 1967 Tony Award for Best Director along with that year’s Tony for Best Musical. A few years later, Prince again won dual Tonys as director and producer of Sondheim and George Furth’s Company (1971).
Prince’s other Tony wins came as producer of A Little Night Music (1973) and director of Follies (1972), Candide (1974), Sweeney Todd (1979), Evita (1980) and The Phantom of the Opera (1988), which is now the longest-running musical in Broadway history. Prince earned his final Tony Award as director for Show Boat (1995).
Other notable projects ushered to Broadway by Prince include the original productions of West Side Story (1957), She Loves Me (1963), It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman (1966), Zorba (1968), Pacific Overtures (1976), Side by Side by Sondheim (1977), On the Twentieth Century (1978), Merrily We Roll Along (1981), Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993), Parade (1998) and Lovemusik (2007).
Prince was honored with special Tony Awards for his achievements on Fiddler on the Roof and Candide in 1972 and 1974, respectively. He was also presented with a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2006.
A revue entitled Prince of Broadway, featuring re-created numbers from musicals directed and produced by Prince, arrived on Broadway in 2017. That show marked Prince’s final Broadway credit. He passed away July 31, 2019, at the age of 91.
Founded in 1955, the Drama Desk Awards honor outstanding achievement by professional theater artists on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway. The Drama Desk Awards are voted on and bestowed by theater critics, journalists, editors, publishers and broadcasters covering theater.
The Drama Desk Awards are presented by the Drama Desk organization in partnership with Broadway Brands. The presentation will be produced in consultation with Joey Parnes Productions, continuing a relationship formed in 2012.
Visit the Drama Desk Awards website for updated information as it becomes available.