For true Broadway aficionados, there perhaps couldn’t be a more ideal night at the theater than Prince of Broadway at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater. The show features the culmination of six decades worth of Broadway director/producer Harold Prince’s greatest hits, which include West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Evita, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, and The Phantom of The Opera, to name a few.
With a book by two-time Tony nominee David Thompson, and direction by Mr. Prince himself, as well as Tony winner Susan Stroman (who is also credited as the choreographer), the show acts as a celebration not only of Hal Prince’s prolific career, but also of the Broadway musical at large, as it has been over the past 60 years, but also in its current form. Today, as we stand in the middle of what has been considered a golden age of the Broadway musical, it seems to be the perfect time to revel in the masterpieces that brought us to this point.
One of the most interesting elements of Prince of Broadway is its unique narratorial form, in which each of the nine ensemble members, at different points in the production, narrates as Hal Prince himself. These spoken moments are few and far between, however, and most of the two and a half hours are spent reveling in the songs of Prince’s career that have become staples of the American cultural landscape. Each of these numbers maintains a firm grasp of its roots, with classic choreography, costumes, and orchestrations that will surely send chills down the spines of any audience members who were lucky enough to see Prince’s original versions. The creative team has also leveraged them into the present, with arrangements, and even new songs, by Jason Robert Brown, and excellent casting choices that are more aligned with the current state of things than of those of years earlier. Why Chuck Cooper has never played Tevye before is beyond me.
Speaking of Cooper, the entire ensemble is excellent, and incredibly well-appointed. Each actor assumes several of the most important roles in the American musical theater canon throughout the run of the show, and does so with tremendous ease and ability. One must applaud Tony Yazbeck, who slips so seamlessly from the boyish, romantic Tony in West Side Story, to the brash and crass Buddy Plummer in Follies (his rendition of "The Right Girl" is hands down the best number of the production, and possibly of the entire season). Brandon Uranowitz, too, shows off his versatility, giving perhaps the most authentic narration as Prince himself, and moving from the lovable everyman Georg in She Loves Me to the sly and sleazy Emcee in Cabaret without missing a beat. The fact actors take on multiple roles brings a sense of celebration to the piece, this time for the life of an actor, in which it is her livelihood to give life, depth, and authenticity to different characters throughout the span of her career.
For those who aren’t as familiar with the Broadway musical, Prince of Broadway would hold its own as a wonderfully assembled song medley performed by some of the greatest talents on the American stage, but for those of us who have relationships with the theater, and with these shows, each institutions in their own right, it feels like a true testament, not only to Prince, or to Broadway at large, but also to us, the audience members, who have been transported by these shows and by the musical theater artform, and will continue to be for decades to come.