There’s a song in “Company” — one of the many milestone Broadway musicals helmed by 89-year-old director-producer Hal Prince — called “Sorry-Grateful,” where a character explains his conflicted, contradictory feelings about marriage.
“Prince of Broadway,” the lavish, unwieldy, mostly enjoyable revue celebrating Prince’s long and unparalleled career of presenting daring new musicals (usually based on difficult subject matter and incorporating strong visual concepts), has finally opened on Broadway after many stops and starts, and I’m “sorry-grateful” to see it there.
I’m grateful for a show in which a terrific ensemble cast (including Tony Yazbeck, Emily Skinner, Karen Ziemba, Brandon Uranowitz and Chuck Cooper) gets to tackle songs and scenes from many of Prince’s best-known shows, ranging from those he only produced (“West Side Story,” “Fiddler on the Roof”) to the ones he directed (“Cabaret,” “Follies,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Evita,” “Phantom”).
Yet I’m sorry in the sense that I would much rather see a new musical helmed by Prince instead of this well-intended but unnecessary revue, which resembles an overstuffed smorgasbord, coming off as a self-congratulatory victory lap, mixed with a motivational speech and economics lecture.
As directed by Prince himself (with codirection and choreography by Susan Stroman and music arrangement by songwriter Jason Robert Brown), each individual suite — consisting of one or more songs from any given show — is aided by scenery, costumes, orchestrations and movement that evoke Prince’s original productions.
The songs are occasionally interrupted by friendly words of narration (delivered in alternating fashion by each actor as they wear eyeglasses on their foreheads, a trademark of Prince).
There are many standout moments, especially Yazbeck’s dynamic performances as Tony in “West Side Story,” Buddy in “Follies” and Leo in “Parade.” On the other hand, Yabeck’s brief turn as Che in “Evita” is cringe-worthy.
Skinner shines as Desirée in “A Little Night Music” as well as Joanne in “Company,” delivering the torch song “The Ladies Who Lunch” in the caustic style of Elaine Stritch.
In recent interviews, Prince has indicated that he wants to remount his original staging of “Evita” on Broadway. That’s all well and good, but wouldn’t it be better for the world if Prince teamed up again with Stephen Sondheim or Andrew Lloyd Webber and they developed something new?