Stephen Sondheim dies at 91, West Facet Story composer

Stephen Sondheim, the composer, lyricist and theater big whose Broadway musicals ranged from West Facet 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 consists of “Ship within the Clowns,” “I am Nonetheless Right here” and “Being Alive.”

Regardless of his showpieces being recorded by everybody from Frank Sinatra to Madonna and Meryl Streep, Sondheim was considered an acquired style. Even by Sondheim. “I’ve by no means been fashionable,” he advised the New York Occasions.

On the identical time, Sondheim was vastly influential, broadening the thought of ​​what a musical might be about. Time critic Richard Corliss referred to 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 dad and mom his divorced, and Sondheim and his mom his moved to Pennsylvania. There, Sondheim encountered a neighbor who grew to become a mentor: Oscar Hammerstein II, the legendary Broadway lyricist and author (The Sound of Music, Oklahoma!).

“He taught me find out how to construction a track, what a personality was, what a scene was; he taught me find out how to inform a narrative, how to not inform a narrative, find out how to make stage instructions sensible,” Sondheim mentioned.

Sondheim wrote his first exhibits as a schoolboy. His profession his 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 supplied a job that paired him with one other Broadway legend: the composer Leonard Bernstein. The gig was West Facet Story.

The New York-set Romeo-and-Juliet story opened on Broadway In 1957. It received two Tonys (however not Finest 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 project was the backstage musical Gypsy. Initially, the then-twentysomething was employed to jot down the phrases and music, however star Ethel Merman demanded an older hand be introduced in to compose the songs. The next Jule Styne-Sondheim rating launched its personal share of requirements, together with “Every thing’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 Option 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 exhibits that did not earn Tonys, however added to his repute included Merrily We Roll Alongside, Sunday within the Park With Georgewhich received Sondheim the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and Assassinswhich proved even one thing as unmusical as a presidential assassination might be fodder for a musical.

Sondheim’s songs have been launched on stage by Angela Lansbury, Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Elaine Stritch and extra. They have 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 Music of the Yr.

Along with West Facet StorySondheim exhibits that have been translated to the large display screen included Gypsy, A Little Evening Music, Sweeney Todd and the all-star rendering of his fairytale favourite, Into the Woodsstarring Streep and Johnny Depp, who additionally headlined Sweeney Todd.

Sondheim wrote authentic music and songs for the films, together with the Madonna-crooned “Sooner or Later (I All the time Get My Man)” from Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy. The minimize received Sondheim the Academy Award for Finest Music.

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 largely by means of revivals and tribute live shows.

“I do not know that there is an viewers now for the type of exhibits I’d wish to write,” he mentioned in 2010. “However that ought to not deter me, and it is one thing I am ashamed of feeling.

Sondheim was a recipient of each the Kennedy Middle Honors and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Survivors embrace Jeff Romley, his companion.

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