“Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater critic by night- bringing my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.
Everyone knows that Hal Prince is a Broadway legend. Who can blame him for having a revue called ‘Prince of Broadway’ that features some of his shows’ many hit songs and scenes from his illustrious almost seven decade career in the theater?
Not me- the man is a legend and he deserves it.
To give you an idea of how big a legend he is, here is a partial list of some of the shows he helped direct and produce: Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, West Side Story, She Loves Me, Follies, A Little Night Music, Evita, Cabaret, Sweeney Todd, Phantom of the Opera and Fiddler on the Roof. An incredible career!
And, because he is Hal Prince, everyone who is talented wants to work with him.
Scene from ‘Damn Yankees’
So he has assembled a very talented cast to perform segments from each of those shows- and others. And, while he is listed as the director, Susan Stroman is listed as co-director and choreographer.
The show is at a beautiful small Broadway house of under 700 seats, the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. It is an intimate setting, which works well.
Cast of ‘Prince of Broadway’
The cast includes Chuck Cooper, Janet Dacal, Emily Skinner, Brandon Uranowitz, Tony Yazbeck and Karen Ziemba.
However, the night I saw ‘Prince of Broadway’ there were 3 understudies performing- including for Emily Skinner and Tony Yazbeck. Not ideal, of course, to get 3 understudies with a cast size of just 9, but they all had good singing voices.
The challenge with this show is to make each scene and number land successfully with the audience, because each scene is being seen out of context. And it’s hard to get right into the middle of any powerful, emotional scene with little or no build up. Set designer Beowulf Boritt’s spare but appropriate sets- which had to change often and rapidly- helped accomplished their task.
And book writer David Thompson had the bigger challenge of scripting it all so it works.
The only way scenes were set up was with one of the cast stepping quickly on stage to deliver a line or two- talking as if they were a younger Hal Prince- and describing (all too briefly) something about the show. It would have been nicer to have a bit more context and to get a better sense of Mr. Prince’s personality before they plunged us into the next scene- but I guess that would have made for too long a show and, let’s face it, they had a lot of great shows from which to choose their scenes and numbers.
Scene from ‘Company.’ Images from (top to bottom): MTC, Playbill, Broadway.com, TheaterMania.com.
The scenes from Damn Yankees, Cabaret, Evita, She Loves Me, Company and the rare revival Prince directed- Showboat- landed very well.
Some of the others, including Phantom of the Opera and ‘It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman,’ didn’t quite cut it, which was disappointing.
But the great vocal abilities of the cast really helped carry most of the numbers. and I give ‘Prince of Broadway’ 3-and-a-1/2 stars out of 5. I am not the biggest fan of revue shows but my companion loved it- so maybe let that be your guide.
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This is Ed Katz talking theater for WICC 600!”