At a reception on April 23, Penn President Amy Gutmann said a performance by the Pennsylvania Players was the perfect occasion to honor distinguished alumnus and Broadway producer Harold “Hal” Prince with a Creative Spirit Award.
“In my lifetime, no one has done more to shape, recharge, and reinvent the American musical theater than Penn’s very own Hal Prince,” Gutmann said. “Hal Prince has helped to remake our world by singular acts of imagination in the world of the theater.”
Prince was on hand that evening at Annenberg Center Live to receive the 2015 Creative Spirit Award, which recognizes a member of the Penn community who has illustrated a lifelong commitment to the arts through philanthropic or volunteer support and/or outstanding personal achievements.
Winner of 21 Tony Awards and arguably the best-known Broadway musical producer and director of the past century, Prince’s credits include “Cabaret,” “West Side Story,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Evita,” and “The Phantom of the Opera.” His career includes a number of collaborations with Stephen Sondheim, including “A Little Night Music” in 1973.
The event preceded the opening night of the Pennsylvania Players’ performance of “LoveMusik,” an award-winning musical that Prince directed in 2007. The Penn Singers performed a musical tribute to Prince for the more than 150 guests gathered for the event.
Accepting the award, Prince remarked to the crowd, “It is great to be back at Penn. I love being here [and] love that you’ve been so generous in giving me this award. And that you are here is pretty swell.”
As a student at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1940s, Prince directed plays for the Penn Players. He graduated from Penn in 1948 and received an honorary degree from the University in 1971.
Prince has been generous to his alma mater, granting the royalties of “Cabaret” to Penn, a gift that helped to fund the University’s Harold Prince Theater in the Annenberg Center. Proceeds from the royalties were also used to fund the Penn Players’ production of “LoveMusik.”
Dan Kutner, theater director and assistant director for the Harold Prince Organization, said at age 87, Prince “is still presenting challenging material; it is unrelenting, it is really inspiring.
“Hal is force of nature,” said Kutner. “He created so much and was such an innovator, and he still is.”
Kutner spent seven weeks on campus directing members of the Penn Players, the University’s only professionally directed student theater group, in the production of “LoveMusik,” which opened on April 23 and ran through April 25 at Annenberg Center Live.
“The amount of talent in this cast is staggering,” Kutner said. “They supply everything that professional actors supply; they have the discipline; they have the talent.”