Stephen Sondheim hailed 'musical theatre giant' after death aged 91

26 November 2021, 23:07 | Updated: 27 November 2021, 01:05

Stephen Sondheim has died age 91.
Stephen Sondheim has died age 91. Picture: Getty

By Sophie Barnett

Stephen Sondheim, who was behind some of Broadway’s most beloved and celebrated shows, has died aged 91, it has been reported.

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The American composer died at his home in Connecticut, US, early on Friday morning, the New York Times said.

The newspaper said the American composer’s death was announced by his friend and lawyer, Richard Pappas, who described it as sudden.

The lyricist was known for his impressive range of hit musicals, such as West Side Story, Sweeney Todd, Gypsy and Into the Woods.

Tributes have flooded in for the composer, with Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber describing Mr Sondheim as a "musical theatre giant" and Carrie Hope Fletcher calling him a "genius, a giant, a hero".

In a post on Twitter, Lord Lloyd Webber wrote: "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. - ALW"

Born in New York in March 1930, the composer and lyricist saw his first Broadway musical at the age of nine.

Mr Sondheim influenced several generations of theatre songwriters with his work, which included other musicals such as Company and Follies.

His ballad Send in the Clowns has been recorded hundreds of times, including by Frank Sinatra and Judy Collins.

Six of Sondheim's musicals won Tony Awards for best score and he received a Pulitzer Prize for Sunday in the Park.

The composer also won an Academy Award for the song Sooner or Later from the film Dick Tracy, five Olivier Awards and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honour.

Theatrical producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh said the theatre has "lost one of its greatest geniuses" following Mr Sondheim's death.

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"The world has lost one of its greatest and most original writers," he said.

"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 ever more.

"Goodbye old friend and thank you from all of us."

Actor Hugh Jackman, star of The Greatest Showman, said: "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."

While Tony winner Lea Salonga, who performed in last year's concert to mark Mr Sondheim's birthday, tweeted: "Rest In Peace, Stephen Sondheim, and thank you for your vast contributions to musical theater. We shall be singing your songs forever. Oh, my heart hurts..."

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