Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim has died at 91

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Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim, the most important man in American musical theater, died Friday at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut. He was 91 years old.

The legendary West Side Story lyricist’s death was announced by his lawyer and friend F. Richard Pappas, who called it sudden, The New York Times reported. Pappas said Sondheim celebrated Thanksgiving the day before.

Sondheim became legendary for not writing “hands of jazz” musicals – he challenged his audiences with complex lyrics and difficult adult themes that have resonated for decades across a myriad of covers around the world. Considered the greatest composer and lyricist of the 20th century, Sondheim is best known for his legendary productions such as “Company” (1970), “Sweeney Todd” (1979) and “Into the Woods” (1987).

Beyond his accomplishments, which were large and numerous, he loved to laugh.

“I am the best laughter,” he said. told the Guardian in 2000. “If you’re writing a comedy, hire me to sit in the audience. Although I tend to laugh, which is not always great.

Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the lyrics for the musical “West Side Story”, is seen in this 1957 photo.
PA

Sir Cameron Mackintosh, including the world’s most successful musical producer once described it as “possibly the greatest lyricist of all time.” Frank Rich, who earned the nickname “The Butcher of Broadway” during his 14 years as a New York Times theater critic, also once wrote: “He changed the texture of the musical so drastically. than Oscar Hammerstein, and can still leave our dramatically changed theater.

“I want people to appreciate what I write”, Sondheim told the London Telegraph in 2014. “I’m a Broadway product, no matter how pretentious someone thinks what I write is. I don’t write for myself. I write to entertain, to make people laugh, cry and think. I want as large an audience as possible.

“Thank the Lord, Sondheim lived to be 91, so he had time to write such wonderful music and GREAT lyrics! May he rest in peace, “Barbra Streisand wrote on Twitter on Friday.

Ariana DeBose to star in upcoming film adaptation of Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” writing, “I’m not coming. Seems like the end of an era. It indeed set the standard for American musicals. Rest well, sir. #StephenSondheim. “

“Into the Woods” star Anna Kendrick tweeted, “I was talking to someone a few nights ago about how fun (and fucking hard) it is to sing Stephen Sondheim. Performing his job has been one of the greatest privileges of my career. devastating loss.

Currently, two recently relaunched Sondheim shows are on the recently reopened Broadway: “Assassins” at the Classic Stage Company and “Company” at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater.

The world-renowned lyricist and composer has won nine Tony Award nominations throughout his long career, as well as an Oscar, eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and a Laurence Olivier Award.

The first Broadway show for which Sondheim composed both the lyrics and the music turned out to be a winner from the get-go. It won a Tony Award for Best Musical for that show, the 1962 comedy “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” which lasted over two years.

The talent took him to the 1970s and 1980s, where he created the tales, “Company” (1970), “Follies” (1971), “A Little Night Music” (1973), “Pacific Overtures” (1976 ), “Sweeney Todd” (1979), “Merrily We Roll Along” (1981) and “Sunday in the Park With George” (1984).

He went on to win the Tony Awards for Best Original Music for “Company” (1971), “Follies” from 1972, “A Little Night Music” (1973), “Sweeney Todd” (1979), “Into the Woods” ( 1988) and “Passion” (1994).

Stephen Sondheim at the Dramatists Guild Fund Gala Presentation
Stephen Sondheim at the Dramatists Guild Fund Gala Presentation “Great Writers Thank Their Lucky Stars: The Presidential Edition” at Gotham Hall on November 7, 2016 in New York City.
Getty Images

In addition to his many victories, Sondheim racked up dozens of Tony nominations, starting with the best musical nods for “West Side Story” of 1958 and “Gypsy” of the 1960s.

The composer won multiple Grammys for the musical album and won Song of the Year in 1975 for “Send in the Clowns”.

He also won the Theater Pulitzer Prize for “Sunday in the Park with George” in 1985. Over 20 years later, in 2015, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from then-President Barack Obama at the White House.

Sondheim’s body of work won him an award at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1993.

A Broadway theater on West 43rd Street in New York City, formerly known as Henry Miller’s Theater, has been renamed in honor of Sondheim.

President Barack Obama presents Stephen Sondheim with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House on November 24, 2015.
President Barack Obama presents Stephen Sondheim with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House on November 24, 2015.
Wire picture

In addition to working on the musical theater scene, the New York native brought his talent to the big screen. He has written music for films including the score for the 1974 film “Stavisky”. Warren Beatty’s 1991 comedy “Dick Tracy” included Sondheim’s song “Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)” and even won the Oscar.

Sondheim was immortalized in Lin-Manual Miranda’s recent Netflix adaptation of “Rent” creator Jonathan Larson’s near-biopic, “Tick, Tick… ​​Boom!” Actor Bradley Whitford plays Sondheim in the musical.

In 2020, Sondheim suffered a fall that prevented him from attending the opening of his namesake theater in London’s West End.

Stephen Sondheim in 2019.
Stephen Sondheim in 2019.
Getty Images

“As I recover from my fall, I can’t wait to throw down my cane, grab my hat and cross the pond ASAP to see which cherub Cameron has my initials tattooed on,” Sondheim said in a statement. at the time. “I am, to say the least, delighted to have my name on a West End theater that I have enjoyed visiting since my first trip to London almost seventy years ago.”

While he was “in a frustrated and fiery spirit” after the fall, according to producer Cameron Mackintosh, that did not stop the party for his 90th birthday, which took place practically in April, in the presence of Meryl Streep.

Sondheim led the theater for the 25-year period, 1970-1995, as the creative driving force behind American theater. While in his twenties, he wrote “Somewhere” from “West Side Story” and “Rose’s Turn”, as well as the last issue of Golden Age musicals, “Gypsy”.

More recently, three candidates for the cinema awards presented his music: “Knives Out”, “Joker” and “Marriage Story”. The latter included a poignant scene in which Adam Driver sings Sondheim’s “Being Alive” from the 1970 “Company” show.

“You can’t believe a man wrote all thatBroadway frontman Raul Esparza told The Post in 2020, celebrating a career that started with the lyrics to 1957’s “West Side Story” and has grown monumental ever since. “It’s like watching the Sistine Chapel Steve would kill me for talking about him like that!



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