May Madness: Favourite Musical Theatre Directors on Broadway

HAROLD PRINCE

To purchase a copy of HAROLD PRINCE AND THE AMERICAN MUSICAL THEATRE, click on the image above.

May is a mad month. A month of random musings about various topics related to musical theatre. Feel free to share your thoughts on each topic in the comment box below.

Who is Your Favourite Musical Theatre Director on Broadway?

This poll asks you to pick one of nine directors of musical theatre on Broadway – or the “other” option, if that is your wish – and to share with us the reason why he or she holds that place in your esteem in the comments box below.

Mine is Harold Prince, particularly for his work from Cabaret through to The Phantom of the Opera. During that 20-year period, in muiscals such as Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures Sweeney Todd and Evita, he helped extent the bounderies of what could be achieved onstage in a musical. At his best, he is unmatchable. (Check out the book Harold Prince and the American Muiscal Theatre if you want to see more reasons why.)

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2 Responses to May Madness: Favourite Musical Theatre Directors on Broadway

  1. Of all time? I’m going with Tom O’Horgan. Musicals like Rent and Spring Awakening owe a lot to his presentational style of staging, seen to best effect in shows like Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar, which busted open wide the doors of Broadway and brought in some much-needed fresh air. I consider Tom my personal hero, and my biggest influence with regard to getting into theater.

    When asked what prompted him to direct a Broadway-bound musical (Hair) after years of Off-Broadway work, including Tom Paine at Stage 73 and critically acclaimed direction of outstanding productions at Cafe La Mama, which had netted him the 1967 Obie Award for director of the year and the 1968 Brandeis Award for Creative Arts, and gained him the nickname of “high priest of Off-Off-Broadway” (bestowed by Cue Magazine), he had this to say:

    I took this assignment because I feel Hair is an assault on a theatrical dead area: Broadway. It’s almost an effort to give Broadway mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If there was an audience for Marat/Sade, for instance, which was also a new direction for the theater, it shows that there does exist an audience among those who now stay away from Broadway, people who could be attracted by fresh venturesome theater.

    We hope – and think – that Hair will reach out to create a whole new audience for the Broadway theater. I would say that theater’s greatest hope for coming alive again, and being fully relevant to us all, is to produce the kind of work that would interest people in college today. If we don’t, we might as well tear the remaining theaters down, and pave them for parking lots. Musicals today have evolved to this fine, precision-honed formula – something like the way you make a Buick – where they have little music, little singing, shiny, formula dancing, and no life, no immediacy. They go in for stories in fantasy settings, distant from us in time and/or place, and we find the problems of the characters charming – because they have nothing to do with us at all.

    To understate: Hair is not like that.

    I find it fascinating how eerily relevant, even now, his words are, in my opinion, to the current theater scene. George Bernard Shaw once said, “Must then a Christ perish in torment in every age to save those that have no imagination?” I say to that, no, but we could sure do with another Tom O’Horgan.

  2. David Fick says:

    Check out this related article at BroadwaySpace: “The Top 10 Broadway Directors of All Time”.

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