Stephen Sondheim, the composer, lyricist and theater big whose Broadway musicals ranged from West Aspect Story and Gypsy to Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods, died on Friday, Nov. 26, in his house in Roxbury, Conn. He was 91.
Sondheim’s work received him acclaim throughout mediums. In a profession of greater than 60 years, Sondheim claimed an Oscar, a Pulitzer Prize, seven Grammys and eight Tonys.
His songbook contains “Ship within the Clowns,” “I’m Nonetheless Right here” and “Being Alive.”
Regardless of his showpieces being recorded by everybody from Frank Sinatra to Madonna and Meryl Streep, Sondheim was thought to be an acquired style. Even by Sondheim. “I’ve by no means been widespread,” he instructed the New York Instances.
On the identical time, Sondheim was massively influential, broadening the thought of what a musical could possibly be about. Time critic Richard Corliss known as Sondheim “an establishment” and “the defining musical voice of his technology and those who adopted.”
Sondheim was born March 22, 1930, in New York Metropolis. At age 10, his mother and father divorced, and Sondheim and his mom moved to Pennsylvania. There, Sondheim encountered a neighbor who turned a mentor: Oscar Hammerstein II, the legendary Broadway lyricist and author (The Sound of Music, Oklahoma!).
“He taught me the best way to construction a music, what a personality was, what a scene was; he taught me the best way to inform a narrative, how to not inform a narrative, the best way to make stage instructions sensible,” Sondheim mentioned.
Sondheim wrote his first reveals as a schoolboy. His profession started in earnest after school. He wrote for the Nineteen Fifties TV comedy Topper, and labored on a handful of musicals that by no means made it to opening evening earlier than being provided a job that paired him with one other Broadway legend: the composer Leonard Bernstein. The gig was West Aspect Story.
The New York-set Romeo-and-Juliet story opened on Broadway In 1957. It received two Tonys (however not Greatest Musical), spawned the Oscar-winning movie adaptation and launched the classics “Tonight,” “Someplace,” “America” and extra. A ditty like “Gee, Officer Krupke!,” with its closing line, “Krup you!,” established Sondheim’s love of phrase play and established him as a limber, even daring lyricist.
Sondheim’s subsequent task was the backstage musical Gypsy. Initially, the then-twentysomething was employed to put in writing the phrases and music, however star Ethel Merman demanded an older hand be introduced in to compose the songs. The following Jule Styne-Sondheim rating launched its personal share of requirements, together with “The whole lot’s Coming Up Roses” and “Let Me Entertain You.”
Sondheim fulfilled his ambition of writing the phrases and music for a Broadway hit with 1962’s A Humorous Factor Occurred on the Solution to the Discussion board. The present introduced Sondheim his first Tony. He would go onto win Broadway honors for Firm, Follies, A Little Evening Music, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods and Ardour. In 2008, he rated a particular Tony for lifetime achievement.
Sondheim reveals that did not earn Tonys, however added to his repute included Merrily We Roll Alongside, Sunday within the Park With George, which received Sondheim the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and Assassins, which proved even one thing as unmusical as a presidential assassination could possibly be fodder for a musical.
Sondheim’s songs had been launched on stage by Angela Lansbury, Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Elaine Stritch and extra. They had been lined by the likes of Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and, most notably, Judy Collins. Collins’ 1975 recording of A Little Evening Music‘s melancholy “Ship within the Clowns” was a Billboard Scorching 100 hit, and received Sondheim the Grammy for Tune of the Yr.
Along with West Aspect Story, Sondheim reveals that had been translated to the large display included Gypsy, A Little Evening Music, Sweeney Todd and the all-star rendering of his fairytale favourite, Into the Woods, starring Streep and Johnny Depp, who additionally headlined Sweeney Todd.
Sondheim wrote unique music and songs for the flicks, together with the Madonna-crooned “Sooner or Later (I All the time Get My Man)” from Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy. The reduce received Sondheim the Academy Award for Greatest Tune.
With Psycho star Anthony Perkins, Sondheim cowrote the 1973 mystery-drama movie, The Final of Sheila.
After the Tony-winning triumph of Ardour in 1994, Sondheim remained a theater fixture, although principally via revivals and tribute concert events.
“I don’t know that there’s an viewers now for the form of reveals I’d need to write,” he mentioned in 2010. “However that ought to not deter me, and it’s one thing I’m ashamed of feeling.
Sondheim was a recipient of each the Kennedy Heart Honors and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Survivors embody Jeff Romley, his accomplice.