‘Incomparable’ Broadway Composer Stephen Sondheim Passes Away at 91 | News obituaries

Legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, widely credited with transforming musical theater, died on Friday aged 91, his publicist said.

Sondheim – renowned for his musicals including West Side Story and Sweeney Todd – died at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, spokeswoman Kathryn Zuckerman told Reuters news agency by email, saying she had little additional information. The news was reported earlier by The New York Times which said he celebrated Thanksgiving with friends the day before.

“There are no words. He had them all. And the music. He was second to none,” tweeted the UK-based Stephen Sondheim Society, which is dedicated to promoting and studying his work. , with three heart emojis, one of which is broken.

“He was God to many of us. We loved his job. And God he was good.

Born on March 22, 1930 to a well-to-do New York family, Sondheim was involved in musical theater from an early age.

He started playing the piano at the age of seven, and after his parents divorced and moved with his mother to Pennsylvania, he learned to write musicals from his neighbor Oscar Hammerstein II, who along with his partner Richard Rodgers, has written hugely popular shows including The Sound of Music.

Sondheim made his first big breakthrough on Broadway in 1957 with West Side Story, which transplanted Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet into the working class of Manhattan.

Sondheim’s songs were celebrated for their quick wit and insight into modern life, and for giving voice to complex characters.

Later hits include Sweeney Todd, about a murderous barber in London whose victims are served like meat pies, which opened in 1979, and Into the Woods, which opened on Broadway in 1987. and used children’s fairy tales to unravel the obsessions of adults.

“I love theater as much as music, and the idea of ​​touching an audience and making them laugh, making them cry – just making them feel – is paramount to me,” Sondheim said in a 2013 interview. with National Public Radio.

‘Sing your songs forever’

Sondheim has won numerous awards during his career, including eight Grammy Awards and eight Tony Awards, including the Special Honor for Lifetime Achievement in Theater. It has also won an Oscar and a Pulitzer Prize, and has been nominated for numerous other Grammys and Tonys, as well as two Golden Globes.

In 2015, then-US President Barack Obama presented Sondheim with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, for his life’s work.

Several Sondheim musicals have been made into films including West Side Story in 1961, which won an Oscar, and Into the Woods, starring Meryl Streep, in 2007. A new version of West Side Story, directed by Steven Spielberg, is expected to be released next month.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created the hit rap musical Hamilton and was mentored by Sondheim, called him the greatest musical theater lyricist.

Sondheim, who was gay, reportedly lived alone until his sixties, keeping his sexuality a secret. In 2017, he married his partner Jeffrey Romley, who survives him.

“Thank the Lord, Sondheim lived to be 91, so he had time to write such wonderful music and GREAT lyrics! Singer Barbra Streisand tweeted.

Actress and singer Lea Salonga, who was the first Asian woman to win a Tony for starring in the musical Miss Saigon, thanked Sondheim for her “vast contributions to musical theater.”

“We will sing your songs forever. Oh, my heart hurts, ”she wrote on Twitter.

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