“It’s just fine!” declares the producer-director with 21 Tony Awards — and, clearly, still counting. “They had trouble raising the money. I understand that,” he adds, revealing that the show will now be produced first in Tokyo, at Umeda Arts Theater, owned by the Japanese conglomerate Hankyu Corp., with the idea of Broadway after. Thanks to the global success of “Phantom” and before that, a U.S. bicentennial gift to Japan of a film of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Prince-directed “Pacific Overtures,” he has a lively following there.
“I’m going to get the production I want,” says Prince, and given his record, you have no right to question the assertion. In a navy blazer and sea-blue sweater, his face framed by the well-groomed beard that appears in every photograph of him over the decades in the company of Broadway royalty — from Bob Fosse to Sondheim, Angela Lansbury to Michael Bennett, Zero Mostel to Kander and Ebb —Prince looks as chipper as a guy half his age.
Which is how he feels. “I hate it when I see ‘85,’ ” he says. “Because, come on, I’m 40.”
Still, he’s reached that venerated stage when the accolades slow simply because there are so few left to give him. His Kennedy Center Honors is ancient history, having had it bestowed on him in 1994, during the first Clinton Administration. So here is Arlington’s own Signature Theatre to fill the void: it named Prince this year’s recipient of its Stephen Sondheim Award, which previously went to Lansbury, Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone. The award, given in consultation with its namesake composer-lyricist to honor contributions to the musical theater, will be presented to Prince on Monday night, at a gala Signature benefit at the Embassy of Italy. He says he's thrilled to be receiving it.
Prince’s suite of offices in Rockefeller Center, adorned with posters of the dozens of shows he’s produced or directed or produced and directed, even now has the energy of a factory rather than a museum. Assistants hustle in and out of his sunlit office, as Prince reaches for the phone again and again, peppering those at the outer desks with requests for statistics and other details to fill out his stories. So allergic to the concept of retirement is he that he wants it made absolutely clear that “Prince of Broadway” is in no manner a valedictory, the way that 1989’s “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway” was taken to be for that late, great director and choreographer. It is to be seen, like the forthcoming musical about the Egyptian band, as just another step on a very long ladder.