Stephen Sondheim, the songwriter who reshaped the American musical theatre in the second half of the 20th century with his intelligent, intricately rhymed lyrics, his use of evocative melodies and his willingness to tackle unusual subjects, has died. He was 91.
Sondheim’s death was announced by Rick Miramontez, president of DKC/O&M. Sondheim’s Texas-based attorney, Rick Pappas, told The New York Times the composer died on Friday at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut. Sondheim influenced several generations of theatre songwriters, particularly with such landmark musicals as Company, Follies and Sweeney Todd, which are considered among his best work.
His most famous ballad, Send in the Clowns, has been recorded hundreds of times, including by Frank Sinatra and Judy Collins. Sondheim’s music and lyrics gave his shows a dark, dramatic edge, whereas before him, the dominant tone of musicals was frothy and comic. He was sometimes criticised as a composer of unhummable songs, a badge that didn’t bother Sondheim.
Tributes quickly flooded social media as performers and writers alike saluted a giant of the theatre. “We shall be singing your songs forever,” wrote Lea Salonga. Aaron Tveit wrote: “We are so lucky to have what you’ve given the world.”
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