Majestic Theatre must be renamed for ‘Phantom’ director Harold Prince

Caryl Anne Francia, Business Editor

The original Broadway production of “The Phantom of the Opera” will conclude its run at the Majestic Theatre on April 16. Since the September 2022 announcement of the musical’s closure, members of the theater community have pushed to rename the venue after its director, Harold Prince.

Prince’s name and contributions to theater must be remembered and celebrated beyond his death. By renaming the building after the late director, the community will ensure that his legacy lives on.

It is not uncommon for Broadway venues to be renamed in honor of famous theater personalities, including performers, producers and composers. Most recently, the Brooks Atkinson Theater — which was renamed from the Mansfield Theatre for the theater critic — was renamed again for Black actress Lena Horne.

Some theaters were even renamed for living theater personalities. Henry Miller’s Theatre was renamed in 2010 for composer Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday, 11 years before he died. The Cort Theatre was renamed in 2022 for Black actor James Earl Jones.

After “Phantom” announced its impending final show at the Majestic Theatre, actress Carol Burnett and writer Eila Mell launched the “#TheMajesticIsFitForAPrince” social media campaign to push for the name change.

Celebrities, such as Chita Rivera, Kristin Chenoweth, Ariana DeBose and Jimmy Kimmel, shared their support online. Sales for “Phantom” tickets surged following the announcement of the show’s closure, resulting in the original closing date of Feb. 18 to be extended to this month.

Burnett said in a Jan. 16 video that it is rumored that the Shubert Organization, which owns the Majestic, is “seriously considering” renaming the 96-year-old venue.

“We want to keep up the momentum,” Burnett said. “We’re asking those of you who haven’t yet to join us by making a video of yourself saying ‘The Majestic is fit for a Prince.’”

Over a year after it debuted in London’s West End, “Phantom” opened on Broadway on Jan. 26, 1988. By its closing date, the run will have recorded its 13,981st performance at the Majestic, but the show will go on at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London.

The musical became Broadway’s longest-running show on Jan. 9, 2006, and celebrated its 35th anniversary in New York this year. Prince directed both the Broadway and West End productions.

Prince died on July 31, 2019, with many shows in his care. Aside from “Phantom,” some of the original Broadway productions he directed include “Cabaret,” “Company,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Parade.” All of these shows were revived on Broadway and the West End within the last decade.

He also produced the original productions of “West Side Story,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Damn Yankees.”

Prince won 21 Tony Awards, including the Tony Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. He earned his first competitive Tony Award for producing the original Broadway production of “The Pajama Game” in 1955. He obtained his last competitive Tony Award for directing the 1994 Broadway revival of  “Show Boat” in 1995.

“Hal not only had the longest-running show, but he had 21 Tony Awards,” Burnett said, according to The New York Times. “Now that ‘Phantom’ is closing, what a great way to honor him. It should have been done a long time ago.”