Stephen Sondheim, the driving force behind some of Broadway’s most beloved and celebrated shows and the most revered and influential theater composer-lyricist of the second half of the 20th century, has died at the age of 91.
The renowned composer and lyricist of “Into the Woods,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Gypsy,” “Sunday in the Park with George” and other essential works of musical theater such as “West Side Story”, died on Friday at his Connecticut home.
Over the course of his career, Sondheim was perhaps without par in the modern American theater as lyricist, songwriter, conceptual artist, and creative force, and was so influential as the dominant Broadway songwriter that he was credited with “reinventing” the American musical.
As the Times reported, he has been was one of just a handful of people who have written the words to go along with their own musical scores: the music and the lyrics he wrote for a dozen Broadway shows brought him five Tony Awards for best musical and six for best original score.
His other achievements included a Pulitzer Prize for drama for his show “Sunday in the Park”, eight Grammy Awards, an Oscar, the Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime achievement and a Tony Award for lifetime achievement.
Broadway’s Henry Miller’s Theater was renamed in his honor in 2010 and Sondheim was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by Former President Barack Obama in 2015.
He also had a London’s West End Theater named after him.
Irish Times film critic Donald Clarke said that Sondheim so towered over his field that his work became a walled-off domain of its own and his death as important as those of Orson Welles or Miles Davis.
Clarke believes they should even rename a whole borough of New York City for him.