Prince of Broadway: A Nuance-free JukeBox Musical of Big Prince Hits3 min read

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Prince of Broadway: A Nuance-free JukeBox Musical of Big Prince Hits

By Ross
So here’s the thing that I’ve been pondering as I wandered into the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. What does a show look like when it’s a retrospective of a famed musical director and his work on Broadway compared to a writer’s retrospective? I’ve seen numerous Sondheim nights over the years; Sondheim on Sondheim, Putting it Together, and Ladies Singing Sondheim, to name a few, and loved each and every one (at different levels of appreciation) but I do love his style and composition. I wouldn’t be as interested in an Andrew Lloyd Webber night to be honest as I find that his older stuff hasn’t aged all that well, where as Sondheim seems ageless. But a director ‘s work, even one as stellar as Harold Prince, doesn’t seem to have the necessary ingredient of introspection to compel it forward. In Prince of Broadway, there is the structure of his career path from one show to the next and his life’s work, but what seems to be missing is an investigation into his process and motivation. Do we learn more about the man? Not really, but with a book by David Thompson (The Scottsboro Boys) what we do get is a ‘best of’ revue performed by a cast of pros following his over sixty years of work. It’s a jukebox musical of some sort that focuses on recreations of memorial moments, without giving us much insight as to the why and how.
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It starts off beautifully with a great setup , a ghost light, and a wonderful overture arranged by Jason Robert Brown (new songs, arrangements, orchestration, music supervision).  The cast, one by one, enters and speaks for Harold Prince, the director of his own retrospective, with Susan Stroman acting as co-director and choreographer. They talk about the luck of being at the right place at the right time, and connecting with the right man, George Abbott in Prince’s case, at the right moment.  And then, without much more fanfare, we are off to the races.  Starting back in 1954 with Pajama Game, and “Heart” from Damn Yankees (1955), sung with gusto and great harmony by Brandon Uranowitz (Falsettos), Michael Xavier (Sunset Boulevard), Chuck Cooper (The Life) and the always amazing Tony Yazbeck (On The Town). We get solid and serviceable recreations of sets by Beowulf Boritt (Come From Away), lighting by Howell Binkly (Hamilton), sound design by Jon Weston (She Loves Me), and costumes by famed designer, William Ivey Long (On The Twentieth Century), as a director’s vision is what we are looking into, not the music or the lyrics. It makes the numbers feel a bit dated, but it also is charmingly reminiscent.
The men in general fair very well in this show, showcasing killer vocals and, when needed, great dance moves (Yazbeck in Follies‘ “The Right Girl”).  Cooper shines as Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof (1964) and the wondrous “Ol’ Man River” from Show Boat (1994).  Xavier gives a disappointing and overdone rendition of “Being Alive” from 1970’s Company, making me wish the stronger voiced Uranowitz, who sings a wonderful “Willkommen” from Cabaret (1966) and “Dressing Them Up” from Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993) had been given the task instead. (for the full review, click here)
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