In the 1970s he was an artistic director of the New Phoenix Repertory Company, which presented several nonmusical revivals on Broadway, including O’Neill’s “The Great God Brown” and Friedrich Durrenmatt’s “The Visit,” both of which he directed. He produced “Side by Side by Sondheim,” a 1977 revue, and “On the Twentieth Century,” a Comden and Green musical with a Cy Coleman score; and co-produced and directed “Hollywood Arms” (2002), based on a memoir by Carol Burnett.
His penultimate Broadway project was “Lovemusik” (2007), a musical based on the letters of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, with a book by Alfred Uhry, with songs by Weill and others.
Mr. Prince was given a Kennedy Center Honors award in 1994 and a National Medal of Arts in 2000. Perhaps the tribute he most coveted, however, nearly didn’t happen and ended in disappointment. An elaborate musical retrospective of his career, “Prince of Broadway,” directed by Mr. Prince himself along with Susan Stroman, was presented in Japan in 2015, but it struggled at first to find sufficient financing for a Broadway opening. It took place at last in August 2017. Critics were cool to the production, which skated across the narrative of Mr. Prince’s career without offering much introspection, and it closed in just over two months. It was his last Broadway production.
It wasn’t Mr. Prince’s only brush with musical failure. His flops included “It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane … It’s Superman,” in the 1960s, and “Grind” and “Roza” in the 1980s. But no failure was perhaps so poignant as “Merrily We Roll Along.” Written by Mr. Sondheim with a book by George Furth (who also wrote “Follies”), “Merrily” is a show business story that rewinds the lives of its three main characters, from success and bitterness back to the innocence and aspirations of youth. It was criticized for, among other things, its unpleasant tone and Mr. Prince’s decision to have youthful actors play the roles throughout, even at the start, when the characters are older.
The storytelling problems were never adequately solved, and it closed after just 16 performances in 1981. Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Prince never worked together on Broadway again, though more than 20 years later they collaborated on another troublesome musical — its various titles included “Wise Guys,” “Bounce” and “Road Show” — that never made it to Broadway.
Mr. Sondheim denied that there had been a falling out.
“The show was a failure,” he said. “We were both bitter about the experience, and there was a lot of Broadway bitchery, but the show failed because people didn’t like it.”
Then he added:
“If there’s a burning plane, I want Hal to be the pilot. He’s just great faced with difficulties, and he’s a terrific leader. I watched him after ‘Pacific Overtures’ had been massacred by critics. And he had to address the cast, give them courage, even though he was hurting just as much.
“I thought, This is a captain!”