Legendary Broadway Composer Stephen Sondheim Dies Suddenly

Legendary Broadway Composer Dies Suddenly

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Legendary composer Stephen Sondheim is dead.

His friend, F. Richard Pappas told the New York Times Sondheim died suddenly on Friday at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut. While he was 91, he did not know he was ill. The Broadway composer had just spent Thanksgiving with his friends, according to Pappas.

Sondheim’s Incredible Career

Sondheim’s success started in the 1950s when he wrote lyrics for “West Side Story” and “Gypsy.” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” the first Broadway musical he wrote the words and music to, won him the 1963 Tony Award for Best Musical.

The Times calls the 70s and 80s Sondheim’s “most productive period.” During that time, he wrote: “Company” (1970), “Follies” (1971), “A Little Night Music” (1973), “Pacific Overtures” (1976), “Sweeney Todd” (1979), “Merrily We Roll Along” (1981), “Sunday in the Park With George” (1984) and “Into the Woods” (1987).

The world celebrated the out composer’s lifetime achievements by awarding him several of the most coveted awards. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts gave Sondheim the Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime achievement in 1993. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama awarded Sondheim with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. The Broadway legend won a lifetime achievement Tony Award and had a Broadway house on West 43rd Street, Henry Miller’s Theater, renamed in his honor.

During an event celebrating the theater renaming, he said, “I’m deeply embarrassed. I’m thrilled, but deeply embarrassed,” the Associated Press reported. “I’ve always hated my last name. It just doesn’t sing.”

An Outpouring of Love

Since his death, tributes have flooded the internet. Barbra Streisand took to Twitter to post a photo of them together, 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.”

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Fellow Broadway great Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted his thoughts about Sondheim. “Future historians: Stephen Sondheim was real. Yes, he wrote Tony & Maria AND Sweeney Todd AND Bobby AND George & Dot AND Fosca AND countless more,” he wrote. “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.”

In a follow-up tweet, Miranda attached an email he received from Sondheim shortly before his death. In the email, Sondheim wrote about “one of the great side effects of tik, tik…BOOM.” His email said, “Thanks for the nice boost to my spirits, Lin. It’s an aspect of my life I’m proud of. I feel as if I’ve repaid ( partially, at least) what I owe Oscar.” Sondheim was referencing Legendary theater producer Oscar Hammerstein II, from which Sondheim says he learned a lot.

He Changed Broadway Forever

Miranda captioned the follow-up tweet saying, “when I wrote him to say his ears must be burning from the countless Sondheim kindnesses being shared from the generations of writers he mentored, he wrote this in reply. Steve: you repaid your debt to Oscar 1000 times over. We love you. I love you. THANK YOU.”

Legendary Broadway Composer Dies Suddenly
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