Leslie (Hoban) Blake
Life in the theater is not always kind to the children of the famous father, especially when they choose to follow in Dad’s footsteps. So it’s not surprising that Daisy Prince, daughter of Harold, began her professional career as a performer – she was in the chorus of the original Broadway company of “Merilly We Roll Along” and the Lincoln Center concert production of the “Follies” in the 1980’s, and more recently played Linda English in the City Center Encores! presentation of “Pal Joey.” But like many actors, what she really wants to do is direct – and so she has honed her craft according to her own time line and personal enthusiasms.
“I can do this now that I’m old,” laughs Prince, who’s all of 30 and looks 10 years younger. “I’ve learned a lot and met a lot of people.”
Among them is composer Jason Robert Brown, her collaborator on “Songs for a New World,” the musical revue at the WPA Theatre that marks her Off-Broadway theatrical debut. Staged on a multi-level, multi-purpose series of wooden platforms, staircases, balconies and trapdoors, “Songs for a New World” consists of 16 of Brown’s compositions – which range from ballads to gospel to comic tours de forces – performed by a quartet of excellent actor-singers including “Grease” star Billy Porter and WPA vet Jessica Molaskey. “It took Daisy to convince me to show off all the stuff I can do in one show,” marvels Brown.
Introduced to each other by singer Annie Hughes, Brown and Prince began four years ago to shape his music into a show. As the work took shape, so did their friendship, and the two now have an easy, joking rapport. When Prince told me “I’m not being very pithy today,” Brown’s instant reply was “I don’t know, you’re pithing me off.” Indeed, Brown has become an extended member of the Prince family: he recently married actress Terri O’Neill, who works as Harold Prince’s assistant, and he’ll be writing the music for the next Harold Prince show, “I Love A Parade,” based on the story of Leo Frank.
If Brown has indeed benefited from the Prince connection, Daisy has her own perspective. Being the bearer of a famous name, she points out, has been a good news/bad news situation. “The good news is people know you and the bad news is people know you. I grew up with Stephen Sondheim personally playing his latest score for us. But performing in New York always put me in a somewhat fearful state for obvious reasons. The ‘Merrily’ experience taught me I couldn’t be invisible.”
Although Prince had already arrived on Broadway by the time college loomed, she went off to study theatre at Brown University, where she first discovered her own directing talent. But her post-graduate theatrical life back in New York began with producing. She co-founded House-Frau, Inc., a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping small theaters as they were losing their arts funding. “Producing under those conditions was heinous,” Prince recalls. “Besides, producing is an impossible position when you’re really a performer and director. As 30 loomed, I decided I had to get over that fear of the Prince name.”
Now that she has, Prince finally has her career where she wants it, and public reaction be damned. “For the most part, nobody knows for sure what I do. Some people think I act. Some people think I direct. And some people even think I still produce! I do want to perform, but I also want to direct. Actually, I’m just inheriting the family business.”