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27 Nov, 2021 00:08

Legendary Broadway songwriter Stephen Sondheim dies at 91

Legendary Broadway songwriter Stephen Sondheim dies at 91

Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist made famous by his work on such musicals as ‘West Side Story’ and such songs as ‘Send in the Clowns,’ has died at the age of 91.

Sondheim died suddenly on Friday at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, according to a statement by lawyer F. Richard Pappas. He had celebrated Thanksgiving with friends the previous day.

Sondheim was so influential as the dominant Broadway songwriter of the late 20th century that he was credited with “reinventing” the American musical. He won nine Tony Awards, including a lifetime achievement honor in 2008, as well as eight Grammy Awards, an Oscar and a Pulitzer Prize for drama.

Then-President Barack Obama in 2015 awarded Sondheim a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. He has theaters named after him in New York and London’s West End.

“Sondheim’s death is as of as much import as the death of Orson Welles or Muhammad Ali or Miles Davis,” said Irish Times film critic Donald Clarke. “[He’s] an American who so towered over his field that his work became a walled-off domain of its own. They should rename a whole borough of New York City for him.”

Sondheim was born in New York and palled around with the son of legendary playwright and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein. The elder Hammerstein reportedly taught Sondheim about songwriting and helped develop his love of musical theater.

The pupil found success as a lyricist on songs for ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Gypsy’ in the late 1950s. He won a Tony Award for 1962’s best musical, ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.’ Other hit productions included ‘Company,’ ‘Follies,’ ‘Sweeney Todd’ and ‘Into the Woods.’ He won a Grammy for 1976’s song of the year, ‘Send in the Clowns,’ from the musical ‘A Little Night Music.’

“Perhaps not since April 23, 1616, has theater lost such a revolutionary voice,” actor Josh Gad said of Sondheim, alluding to the death of William Shakespeare.