Stephen Sondheim, Legend of Musical Theater on Broadway, Dead at 91: Report

Stephen Sondheim, the songwriting giant of Broadway whose contributions include Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music, died suddenly at his home in Connecticut on Friday

Stephen Sondheim
Photo: Tim P. Whitby/Getty

Stephen Sondheim, legendary theatrical songwriter, lyricist and composer, has died. He was 91.

The news of Sondheim's death was announced on Friday, the same day as his passing at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, by his attorney and friend F. Richard Pappas, according to the New York Times. The day before, Pappas said that Sondheim had celebrated Thanksgiving with a dinner with friends in Roxbury.

Early on in his unparalleled career, Sondheim wrote the lyrics to the classic musicals West Side Story, which premiered in 1957, and Gypsy two years later.

Sondheim would go on to compose the music and lyrics for such lasting works as 1962's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, along with Company, Follies, A Little Night Music and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in the 1970s.

The next decade saw Sondheim remain more than relevant on the Great White Way, with entries including Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods.

In the '90s, Sondheim continued to tower in his field, creating two of the most audacious and innovative musicals in his career: Assassins in 1990 and Passion in 1994.

Stephen Sondheim
Michael Hardy/Express/Getty

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He is the recipient of eight Tony Awards, including a special lifetime achievement Tony Award, and in 2010 the Henry Miller's Theatre was renamed the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on West 43rd Street in New York City in his honor.

In 1985, he won the Pulitzer Prize for drama for Sunday in the Park with George, an accolade he shared with that musical's book writer, director and frequent collaborator James Lapine.

Sondheim was born in 1930 in New York, and became a dutiful piano student from the age of 7 or 8. "It was the sort of thing a nice Jewish boy did, and my parents used to bring me out and show me off," the theater legend told PEOPLE in a feature from 1976.

After his mother Etta Janet Fox divorced Herbert Sondheim, a prominent New York dress manufacturer, and settled down on a farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Sondheim began to really fall in love with music — mainly because their neighbors were the Hammersteins. "[Academy Award-winning lyricist] Oscar [Hammerstein II] was one of the most remarkable men I've ever met — generous, witty and sharp-tongued, and it was he who encouraged my interest in music and the theater," he said.

Of his own work, Sondheim said at the time, "My main goal is to tell a story and, if I tell that story well, tell it with resonance, the inferences to be drawn will take care of themselves."

Sondheim's rich and prolific body of work has served as the basis for several lauded films and stage revivals, including Tim Burton's Oscar-winning movie adaptation of Sweeney Todd with Johnny Depp, 2014's Into the Woods starring Meryl Streep, and 2017's Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal.

Sondheim is survived by his partner Jeff Romley.

Currently, a revival of his musical Company plays on Broadway, and a new film adaptation of West Side Story, directed by Steven Spielberg, is set to be released on Dec. 10.

Earlier this month, Sondheim was present at the first preview of Company back after the theater hiatus due to COVID-19. He received a dedication from star Patti LuPone along with a standing ovation from the audience.

Bradley Whitford also portrays Sondheim in Lin-Manuel Miranda's recently released film Tick, Tick... Boom!, about the life of late songwriter and Rent creator Jonathan Larson.

Sondheim is credited as a major influential figure in Larson's life, whose song "Sunday" takes a riff from Sondheim's Sunday in the Park With George.

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