Legendary musical theatre composer Stephen Sondheim has died at the age of 91.
Sondheim passed away at his family home on Friday, lawyer and friend F. Richard Pappas announced this evening (26 November).
“The day before, Mr. Sondheim had celebrated Thanksgiving with a dinner with friends in Roxbury,” Pappas said in a statement. “And he spent all day Wednesday seeing the matinee and evening performances of Dana H and Is This a Room — doing what he most loved to do.”
The multi-award winning composer-lyricist penned scores for countless iconic musicals including Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods, as well as writing the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy.
His accolades included a total of nine Tony Awards, eight Grammy Awards, an Oscar, Olivier and Pulitzer Prize.
Tributes from the theatre world
Tributes from those in the musical theatre world have poured in after the news broke.
Andrew Lloyd Webber said: “Farewell Steve, the musical theatre giant of our times, an inspiration not just to two but to three generations. Your contribution to theatre will never be equalled.”
Jason Robert Brown wrote online: “Obviously there are a million things I have to say, but also there’s really only one thing to say: Thank you, Steve, for everything.”
Cameron Mackintosh said: “The theatre has lost one of its greatest geniuses and the world has lost one of its greatest and most original writers. Sadly, there is now a giant in the sky. But the brilliance of Stephen Sondheim will still be here as his legendary songs and shows will be performed for evermore. Goodbye old friend and thank you from all of us.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda said: “Future historians: Stephen Sondheim was real. Yes, he wrote Tony & Maria AND Sweeney Todd AND Bobby AND George & Dot AND Fosca AND countless more. Some may theorize Shakespeare’s works were by committee but Steve was real & he was here & he laughed SO loud at shows & we loved him.”
Rachel Zegler, who will star in the upcoming new West Side Story movie, said she was “heartbroken”.
“I was so blessed to sing for him. I am so blessed to have known him. How lucky we all remain. Thank you, Steve,” she tweeted.
Elaine Paige shared: “Devastated to hear one of the most important musical theatre giants of our generation, #StephenSondheim, has died. I was lucky enough to have performed in two of his shows @FolliesBroadway & Sweeney Todd, & also have a song co-written by him for my 50th Anniversary. RIP dear man.”
Marianne Elliott, currently directing a revival of Sondheim’s Company on Broadway, said: “We have lost the Shakespeare of musical theatre. He was the most generous collaborator with the greatest spirit. The joy of working with him was that he knew theatre could and should evolve with time. He was always open to the new. We dedicate this production of Company to his artistry and joy.”
Bernadette Peters wrote: “I am so so sad to lose my friend Steve Sondheim He gave me so much to sing about ♥️♥️I loved him dearly and will miss him so much Thank you for all the gifts you gave the world Steve.”
And Patti LuPone penned: “The last of the great Musical Comedy composers has died. Steve, I will never be a able to properly thank you for the lessons learned. You are the Gold Standard.”
Meanwhile it’s been announced that the lights across London’s West End will be dimmed in memory of Sondheim on Monday (29 November) at 7PM.
Julian Bird, Chief Executive of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, commented: “The theatre world is a smaller place tonight after the passing of Stephen Sondheim. His legacy of extraordinary shows and songs will live on for many generations to come – but now, we pay tribute to his outstanding contribution to our theatres and celebrate his talent.”
Prior to his passing, which has been described as “sudden”, Sondheim revealed he was working on a new Broadway musical with playwright David Ives