The Green Bay Press Gazette
Warren Gerds

In theater, the artist known as Prince is Harold Prince — always has been, always will be.

Some of the biggest shows in theater history carry his name. Chief among them is "The Phantom of the Opera."
Prince chatted about "Phantom" and his career in a telephone conversation to promote the dramatic musical "Parade," which arrives Tuesday for an eight-performance run at the Weidner Center.

"I love the production (of ‘Parade’), so that’s a good sign," Prince said from his New York City office.

Prince is a stickler, and one of the reasons "Phantom" has been so popular for so long is he continues to ride herd on productions to make sure standards of quality are met.

"I’m very aware of how rare it is to get a show that’s a phenomenon," Prince said. "There’s no question in my mind it will run 20 years on Broadway, and then it will be the longest-running show.

"You don’t look a gift horse like that in the mouth. You protect it and make sure that it’s in mint condition — as I do all the touring productions. I cast all those roles."

Prince directed the first "Phantom" in London 15 1/2 years ago. He did the New York version a few years later — as well as most productions that played around the world.

"Someone calculated 18 of them," he said.

Such other great shows as "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Cabaret" have his stamp as well.

At age 72, Prince does not look back much. It’s important for him to keep theater young and fresh.

"I sure would like to see more original musicals," he said. The 2000 Tony Awards "dramatically pointed out how little that responsibility has been shouldered by my colleagues."

His answer is the Hal Prince Theatre in Philadelphia.

"I’m very much hands-on there," he said. "In fact, I put together for the theater three one-act musicals introducing new composers, lyrcists, librettists, designers, choreographers, and I’m going to direct one of them early next fall." The musicals go by the umbrella title, "Three."

"Everyone’s young but me on this project," Prince said.

Retirement? Hah!

"As we’re extending our life span, a man of 72 is now 50," Prince said. "Nobody wants to retire when they’ve got a lot of energy. Or if they do, it’s because they haven’t enjoyed the work they’ve done.

"But I chose this. I wanted to do this when I was 8 years old, and I’m living the life I wanted to live.

"It’s a great stroke of fortune that you find something you want to do that much and then have the opportunity — the privilege — of doing it."

Prince’s stunning career extends beyond choice.

"I wouldn’t be the last man to point out it’s so much about luck — being in the right place at the right time," he said. "Just think: Being born in America in this time is being born in the center of the universe.

"The poor kid who’s born in Bangladesh didn’t choose it, but he doesn’t have the opportunities. And that’s true all over the world."

Prince keeps moving ahead. He’s working with Stephen Sondheim on a new musical and a play he like to premiere in a year.

Along with keeping an eye on tours of "Parade" and "Phantom," his schedule includes a directing stint with New York City Opera.

This is someone who has won 20 Tony Awards — more than anyone else.

Where does he keep the trophies?

"Oh, they’re home on a shelf," Prince said.

The Prince file
• For "Parade": Director (Broadway and this touring version), co-conceiver
• Produced: "West Side Story," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Damn Yankees," "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"
• Directed: "The Phantom of the Opera," "Cabaret," "Show Boat," "Company," "Kiss of the Spider Woman," "Evita," "Sweeney Todd"
• Directed for: Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Vienna Staatsoper, Theatre Colon in Buenos Aires
• Honors: All-time leader in Broadway Tony Awards (20), Kennedy Center honoree (1994)