Known as one of the titans in the industry, Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics for West Side Story and composed Sweeney Todd
Stephen Sondheim, known as the Broadway legend behind a number of hit musicals, has died aged 91.
Known as one of the titans in the industry, with a career reaching over 60 years, he wrote the lyrics for West Side Story and composed Sweeney Todd, to name a few.
His friend and lawyer, F. Richard Pappas, announced his death in the New York Times and described his death as sudden as he had been celebrating Thanksgiving with friends the day before.
Sondheim is known for elevating the status of musicals, previously considered simple family entertainment, and moulding them into something much more complex.
He won nine Tony Awards over the past six decades, including a Lifetime Achievement Tony in 2008, eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, a 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom, a Laurence Olivier Award and an Academy Award.
His work has been adapted into films a number of times, including West Side Story (1961), Gypst (1962), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) and Into the Woods (2021).
He was born in New York in 1931 to Jewish parents Etta Janet and Herbert Sondheim, but when his parents later divorced and he later moved to a farm in Pennsylvania.
When he was just 10 years old he was sent to the New York Military Academy, but two years later moved to a private Quaker prep school where he wrote his first musical, By George.
While attending Williams College from 1946 to 1950, he graduated and received the Hubbard Hutchinson Prize, a two-year fellowship to study music.
Sondheim’s early Broadway success came in writing the music and lyrics for West Side Story, which opened in 1957. While he was not entirely happy with his lyrics, it was a success.
He went on to work on a musical based on the Plautus Roman comedies and co-wrote the script with friend Larry Gelbart.
The final Broadway shot he worked on was Road Show in 2008 and, for the 2014 film adaptation of Into The Woods, he wrote new song She’ll Be Back, but it was cut from the movie.