Prince is certainly not the only old hand to notice that the selection of works on Broadway has migrated markedly toward star-driven revivals and new musicals built on movie brands, and away from challenging material; the respected producer Emanuel Azenberg has been remarking on the shift for years. Prince’s voice, though, amplifies the chorus. And in suggesting that hits of the past, like “Cabaret” or “A Little Night Music,” might not have made it to Broadway if the current producing climate existed back then, he is underlining what others have noted: an unfortunate blurring of what it means to be a producer — the person who historically raised the money, put the artistic teams together and supplied wisdom and vision.
“Usually, it’s too damn many,” Prince says of the multitudinous individuals and corporations now often listed above the titles of Broadway shows. (To take one example: “Kinky Boots,” the new musical at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, includes the names of 31 people and companies as above-the-title producers of the show.) It’s an open secret on Broadway that many of those now receiving producers’ billing are not producers, merely investors, who by virtue of their money are in essence buying the title and the right to trot up to the stage on Tony night when their show wins.