Stephen Sondheim, the renowned composer of some of the 20th century’s most acclaimed works of musical theater died early yesterday morning. The news of his death has been confirmed by Aaron Meier at DKC O&M, the producers of his current production, Company.
The lyricist died suddenly at the age of 91, according to the New York Times, which cited his lawyer and friend, F. Richard Pappas. The eight-time Tony Award-winning composer’s death came after he had just celebrated Thanksgiving dinner with friends the day before, his lawyer told the newspaper.
In addition to his Tony Awards, the songwriter Sondheim also won an Oscar, a Pulitzer, eight Grammy Awards, a Kennedy Center honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom throughout the course of his career. The Stephen Sondheim Theater in Manhattan’s Theater District is named for him.
The composer was most notably awarded and celebrated for expressing romantic longing and loss in his lyrics. Songs such as Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music, Losing My Mind from Follies and Somewhere from West Side Story are among his most notable work, in part for their heartbreaking, emotional themes.
The songwriter said the joy of working in the theater was leaving an impact on audiences. “I’m interested in the theater because I’m interested in communication with audiences,” he told NPR’s “Fresh Air in 2010. “Otherwise, I would be in concert music. I’d be in another kind of profession. I love the theater [so] much, and the whole idea of getting across to an audience and making them laugh, making them cry — just making them feel — is paramount to me.”
Several of Sondheim’s plays, including West Side Story, Into the Woods, Sweeny Todd and Gypsy, were adapted into notable movies. He also created original tracks for films, including Sooner or Later for Dick Tracy, which earned him his Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Numerous actors who have starred in both plays and movies featuring the composer’s music expressed their grief over his death on Twitter. Tony Award-nominated actress-singer, Barbra Streisand expressed her joy over his life by writing: “Thank the Lord that Sondheim lived to be 91 years old so he had the time to write such wonderful music and GREAT lyrics! May he Rest In Peace.”
Tony Award-winning actor-singer, Hugh Jackman also chimed in on the Broadway community’s loss, tweeting: “Every so often someone comes along that fundamentally shifts an entire art form. Stephen Sondheim was one of those. As millions mourn his passing I also want to express my gratitude for all he has given to me and so many more. Sending my love to his nearest and dearest.”
Tony and Academy Award-nominated actress-singer, Anna Kendrick, who played Cinderella in the screen adaptation of Into the Woods, also shared her sadness over Sondheim’s death. She posted on Twitter: “I was just talking to someone a few nights ago about how much fun (and f–king difficult) it is to sing Stephen Sondheim. Performing his work has been among the greatest privileges of my career. A devastating loss.”