Pop Culture

Stephen Sondheim Dead at 91

Stephen Sondheim, one of Broadway’s most revered and influential composer-lyricists, has died. According to The New York Times, Sondheim passed away early Friday (November 26) in his Roxbury, Connecticut home. A cause of death has yet to be revealed, but Richard Pappas, Sondheim’s lawyer and friend, noted that the death was “sudden.” Sondheim was 91 years old.

Born in New York in March 1930, Sondheim was about ten years old when he developed a close friendship with James Hammerstein, son of lyricist and playwright Oscar Hammerstein II. The elder Hammerstein became Sondheim’s mentor as he made his first forays into musical theatre, although he had already written his first musical, By George, a satirical show about life at his school. After enrolling in the theatre program at Williams College in Massachusetts, Sondheim began his career as the lyricist of the hit musicals West Side Story and Gypsy. The first show for which he wrote both music and lyrics was A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which won a Tony Award for best musical.

Over the following decade, he worked with Hal Prince on a series of successful shows, including Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Pacific Overtures (1976), Sweeney Todd (1979), and Merrily We Roll Along (1981). In the ’80s and ’90s, Sondheim collaborated with James Lapine for 1984’s Sunday in the Park with George (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Best Drama in 1985), and 1987’s Into the Woods. 

Over the course of his career, Sondheim received nine Tony Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Tony), eight Grammy Awards, and a Lifetime Achievement award in the 1993 Kennedy Center Honors. More recently, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2015.

Sondheim is survived by his husband Jeff Romley and half brother Walter Sondheim.

Following the news of his death, friends and fans across the entertainment world mourned his loss on social media. Read some of their remembrances further down below.

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