Stephen Sondheim Biography, Wiki, Age, Career, Death, Cause of Death | Who was Stephen Sondheim? Bio, Wiki

Spread the love

Who was Stephen Sondheim?

Stephen Sondheim (March 22, 1930 – November 26, 2021) was an American composer and lyricist. One of the most important figures in 20th-century musical theater, Sondheim was praised for having “reinvented the American musical” with shows that tackled “unexpected themes that range far beyond the [genre’s] traditional subjects” with “music and lyrics of unprecedented complexity and sophistication.” 

His shows addressed “darker, more harrowing elements of the human experience,” with songs often tinged with “ambivalence” about various aspects of life.

Stephen Sondheim, American musical theater icon, has died at age 91

Stephen Sondheim, a Broadway giant who has won the most Tony Awards as a composer, died early Friday at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, a spokesperson for Sondheim said. He was 91.

The cause of death was unknown.

Sondheim’s attorney, F. Richard Pappas, also confirmed the composer’s death and said it had been sudden.

“The day before, Mr. Sondheim had celebrated Thanksgiving with a dinner with friends in Roxbury,” Pappas said in a written statement. “And he spent all day Wednesday seeing the matinee and evening performances of Dana H and Is This a Room — doing what he most loved to do.”

Sondheim, who wrote the lyrics for “West Side Story,” was considered American theater’s greatest composer and lyricist of the last half-century or more.

He has more Tony awards — eight — than any other composer, and was the 1985 Pulitzer Prize winner in drama, along with James Lapine, for “Sunday in the Park With George.”

His masterpieces, for which he wrote the words and music, include “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” “Company,” “Follies,” “Into the Woods,” and “Merrily We Roll Along.”

“It is nearly impossible to measure Stephen Sondheim’s impact on the world of musical theatre,” Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, said in a written statement. “During a career that spanned nearly 65 years he created music and lyrics that have become synonymous with Broadway … It is hard to imagine Broadway without him, but we know his legacy will live on for many years to come.”

Sondheim’s other notable musical works include “A Little Night Music” (1973), “Pacific Overtures” (1976), and “Assassins” (1990).

His influence was felt in Hollywood, where he co-composed “Reds”(1981), as well as songs for “The Seven Percent Solution” (1976) and “Dick Tracy” (1990). The latter’s “Sooner or Later,” sung by Madonna, was recognized as Best Song at the Academy Awards.

Marianne Elliott, the director of the 2021 Broadway revival of “Company,” called Sondheim “the Shakespeare of musical theater” and praised him on Twitter for being “always open to the new.”

Stephen Sondheim Biography, Wiki

Stephen Sondheim was born on March 22, 1930, to upper-middle-class parents, Herbert and Janet Sondheim. His father was a dress manufacturer and his mother was a fashion designer and interior decorator.

He studied piano for two years while very young and continued his interest in the musical stage throughout his education.

Sondheim’s parents divorced in 1942 and his mother took up residence in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, which was near the summertime residence of Oscar Hammerstein II (1895–1960).

As a friend of Hammerstein’s son, Sondheim was able to ask the famous librettist (a person who writes the words for a musical or opera) for an evaluation of his first stage work, a high school production produced at the age of fifteen.

Hammerstein’s critical evaluation of By George began the four-year relationship that was decisive in formulating the young Sondheim’s style. Sondheim became Hammerstein’s personal assistant and gained entry into the world of professional theater.

While attending Williams College in Massachusetts, Sondheim performed duties in the preparation and rehearsals of the Rogers and Hammerstein productions of South Pacific and The King and I. Upon graduation, he won the Hutchinson Prize, which enabled him to study composition at Princeton University.

Stephen Sondheim Biography Wikipedia
Stephen Sondheim
Birth nameStephen Joshua Sondheim
BornMarch 22, 1930
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
DiedNovember 26, 2021 (aged 91)
Roxbury, Connecticut, U.S.
GenresMusical theater
Occupation(s)Composer, lyricist
Years active1952–2021
Alma materWilliams College

Stephen Sondheim Career

In the early 1950s, Sondheim wrote scripts in Hollywood for the television series Topper. After returning to New York City, he wrote incidental music for the play The Girls of Summer (1956).

He made his first significant mark on Broadway, though, as the lyricist for Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, which opened in 1957. He then wrote the lyrics for Gypsy (1959; music by Jule Styne).

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum—based on comedies by the Roman playwright Plautus—opened on Broadway in 1962, with music and lyrics by Sondheim.

It ran for 964 performances and won the Tony Award for best musical. Two years later, however, his Anyone Can Whistle closed after only nine performances.

After contributing lyrics to Do I Hear a Waltz? (1965; music by Richard Rodgers), Sondheim focused solely on shows in which he wrote both music and lyrics. He won Tony Awards for best score for Company (1970), on contemporary marriage and bachelorhood; Follies (1971), a tribute to early 20th-century Broadway that includes many pastiche songs; A Little Night Music (1973; film 1977), based on Ingmar Bergman’s film Smiles of a Summer Night (1955); and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979; film 2007), a macabre tale set in Victorian-era London.

All were either produced or directed by Harold Prince, as were Pacific Overtures (1976), in which Sondheim looked to Japanese Kabuki theatre for stylized effects, and Merrily We Roll Along (1981), adapted from a 1934 play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.

Sondheim next collaborated with playwright-director James Lapine to create Sunday in the Park with George (1984), a musical inspired by the painting Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by pointillist Georges Seurat. Sondheim and Lapine paired again for Into the Woods (1987; film 2014), which deconstructs and interweaves the plots of familiar fairy tales, and Passion (1994), a melodramatic romance based on the Italian film Passione d’amore (1981).

Both shows won the Tony Award for best score. Assassins (1990) explores the lives of nine historical characters, such as John Wilkes Booth, who either assassinated U.S. presidents or attempted to do so. Later Sondheim works include Bounce (2003; retitled Road Show in 2008), about the colorful adventures of a pair of early 20th-century American entrepreneurs.

Sondheim’s acerbic lyrics hit responsive chords with many theatregoers. Most critics agree that his work marked a break from more traditional and sentimental musical comedies of the earlier decades of the century. Several revues of his work were staged, among them Side by Side by Sondheim (1976), Putting It Together (1992), and Sondheim on Sondheim (2010).

In 2000 he received the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale prize for theatre/film, and in 2008 he was honoured with a special Tony Award for lifetime achievement in the theatre. The book Finishing the Hat (2010) is a collection of Sondheim’s lyrics, with his own commentaries on them.

Stephen Sondheim Personal Life

Sondheim has been described as introverted and solitary. In an interview with Frank Rich, he said, “The outsider feeling—somebody whom people want to both kiss and kill—occurred quite early in my life”. He did not come out as gay until he was 40. 

He lived with dramatist Peter Jones for eight years in the 1990s. The composer married Jeffrey Scott Romley in 2017. They lived in Manhattan and Roxbury, Connecticut.

Sondheim died at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, on November 26, 2021, at the age of 91. The cause of his death has not been publicly disclosed.

Stephen Sondheim FAQ’s

Who was Stephen Sondheim?

Stephen Joshua Sondheim (March 22, 1930 – November 26, 2021) was an American composer and lyricist. One of the most important figures in 20th-century musical theater, Sondheim was praised for having “reinvented the American musical” with shows that tackled “unexpected themes that range far beyond the [genre’s] traditional subjects” with “music and lyrics of unprecedented complexity and sophistication.” 

How old was Stephen Sondheim?

Stephen Sondheim died at 91.

How did Stephen Sondheim die?

The cause of death was unknown. Sondheim’s attorney, F. Richard Pappas, also confirmed the composer’s death and said it had been sudden.

Also Read: