Harold Prince -- who won more Tonys than anyone -- has died

Prince directed 'West Side Story,' 'Phantom'

By Amanda Jackson, CNN
Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 16: American Theatre Wing Chairman William Ivey Long, honoree Harold Prince, and American Theatre Wing executive director Heather Hitchens attend The 2013 American Theatre Wing's Annual Gala.

(CNN) - Legendary Broadway icon Harold Prince, who produced or directed some of the most famous musicals ever made, including "West Side Story" and "The Phantom of the Opera," died after a brief illness Wednesday in Reykjavik, Iceland. He was 91.

Over his expansive career that ran nearly 70 years, Prince, best known as Hal, received 21 Tony Awards, "the most for any individual in multiple categories," the Tony Awards said.

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom," which opened in London in 1986 and became an international phenomenon, is the longest-running musical in Broadway history.

"Not just the prince of musicals, the crowned head who directed two of the greatest productions of my career, Evita and Phantom. This wonderful man taught me so much and his mastery of musical theatre was without equal," Webber said on Twitter Wednesday.

Prince was born on January 30, 1928 in New York City and majored in English at the University of Pennsylvania. He began his theatrical career in 1948 as an assistant to Broadway director and producer George Abbott.

Under Abbott's mentorship, Prince was introduced to Robert Griffith, who would become his producing partner. By 1955, he won his first Tony with the production, "The Pajama Game," he co-produced with Griffth. It was named best musical.

Prince went on to direct and produce some of the greatest and long-running musicals, including "Fiddler on the Roof," "Cabaret," "Sweeney Todd" and "Evita."

He amassed 21 Tonys, including eight for directing, eight for producing, two as producer of the year's Best Musical and three special Tony Awards.

In 2006, he was honored with another Tony Award for lifetime achievement in the theater.

"He is missed and loved by his family -- Judy, his wife of 56 years; his daughter, Daisy; his son, Charles; and his grandchildren, Phoebe, Lucy, and Felix," Prince's publicist said in a statement.

"As per his wishes, there will be no funeral but there will be a celebration of his life this fall with the people he loved most, the members of the theatrical community that he was a part of for seven decades."

Prince touched the lives of many people, and tributes were posted on social media as news of his death spread.

"Beyond heartbroken to find out that #HalPrince has passed away," tweeted actress Donna Murphy, a two-time Tony Awards winner. "Working with Hal was one of the greatest honors of my artistic life-I'll never forget his kindness, generosity & brilliance as an artist & as a human."

"RIP to the legend Hal Prince. It's because of his vision, his work, his creativity and his passion that I came to love theatre in the first place," tweeted singer and actress, Jessica Vosk. "I have a feeling you might feel the same."

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Prince was a producer not director of West Side Story and that Donna Murphy is a two-time Tony Awards winner.

CNN's Steve Forrest and Justin Lear contributed to this report.

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