Hal Prince is not a household name but a big Broadway one. His work behind the scenes defined the modern American musical. Over seven decades, twenty-one Tony Awards, and one National Medal of the Arts, Prince produced or directed some of the most beloved Broadway hits, including Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, West Side Story, The Phantom of the Opera, Evita, Follies, Company, The Pajama Game, and Parade—and Hal Prince’s Broadway on Saturday, April 1, at Strathmore performed by the Young Artists of America was a huge valentine.
This world premiere was in one part memorial to the Broadway master, who died in 2019, and the other part a moving and important message to young performers, particularly those aiming for the footlights to “do the work.” The quote from Prince, who famously set meetings for ten in the morning following every premiere to begin discussing his next project, wove throughout the tribute, which blended biographical information and video archival footage around the big musical numbers. Later this spring, Maryland Public Television will film excerpts from the YAA production of Hal Prince’s Broadway for a PBS special to be aired later in 2023. This will be the second time the talented Young Artists of America partners with MPT on a world premiere program, having collaborated in 2017 on The Songs of Tim Rice, which won YAA and MPT a regional Emmy award.
Conceived and curated by Rolando Sanz, with book and direction by Carole Graham Lehan, choreography by Dana Keane and Alyxzandra Blanch, and featuring over 180 young artists from the YAACompany, YAAOrchestra, and YAAjunior under the direction of Kristofer Sanz, the twenty-two numbers of Hal Prince’s Broadway did the work beautifully.
In particular, the YAAOrchestra commanded the stage as well as any major pop symphony would—at least to this writer’s ears as I sat in the audience hearing the last time my daughter, Sara Bock, first chair clarinet, would play under Sanz’s masterful baton before she is off to her college adventure.
The top moments in the tribute were the all-company numbers, including the opening “Ballad of Sweeney Todd” from Sweeney Todd, followed by “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof with soloist and YAA alumni Alex Stone as well as “All I Ask of You” from Phantom of the Opera and “Somewhere” from West Side Story. The latter featured the entire YAA vocal troupe for an a cappella number as worthy of a cathedral as of a symphony space.
An absolutely glorious all-company number was “Willkommen” from Cabaret with soloist Sebastian Gervase, who plucked the baton playfully from Maestro Sanz to open the piece. Even more so, what followed was a top-notch, swinging YAAOrchestra rendition of this classic, backing up the entire YAACompany.
The soloists “did the work,” too. Sophie Beck and Esther Ou in “Dear Friend” and “Vanilla Ice Cream” from the 1963 She Loves Me, which for trivia lovers was the first musical Prince directed, soared. Madi Heinemann brought down the house in “Broadway Baby” from Follies, one of the several Stephen Sondheim collaborations with Prince. The evening ended with a rousing all-company “Do the Work” from the 2017 Prince of Broadway, urging Broadway’s next generation, many right on that stage, to ask questions, take risks, and get the job done.
And then there was the encore—“Willkommen” from Cabaret and my daughter standing and swinging her clarinet, doing the work along with the entire YAAOrchestra, under Kristofer Sanz’s joyful baton. Welcome, world, to the next generation.
Running Time: Two hours and 10 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
Hal Prince’s Broadway played on April 1, 2023, presented by Young Artists of America performing at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD. The production is being filmed by Maryland Public Television, to air on PBS stations at a date to be announced soon.