Sondheim, who wrote such enduring Broadway favorites as Company, Sunday in the Park with George and West Side Story, died on Thursday night, his daughter, Leslie Sondheim, told the New York Times. He was 91.
“The entire family is devastated,” she said. “He really was the most extraordinary, charismatic person and, yet, the most brilliant man.”
Sondheim found a career renaissance after leaving the New York theater and going into film-making. Best known for an Oscar-winning first collaboration with his longtime collaborator James Lapine, 1977’s Company, Sondheim stepped away from the New York stage for more than a decade and left a big artistic mark on Broadway.
Playtime (@Playtime) obituary: 1st AMERICAN STAGE WORK: playwright, musician, composer and conductor Stephen Sondheim dies aged 91. Listen to his bizarre rendition of Lion King in 1974
As Tony-nominated lyricist and songwriter on such musicals as Sunday in the Park with George and Pacific Overtures, Sondheim helped redefine how musical theater sounded with modern pop sensibilities. A quote he gave to NPR in 2014 from a performance of Pacific Overtures, when he was seen flying into the air on stage on a chair with his arms outstretched, sums up his belief in and affinity for creating in this medium.
“The theatre was at its best when the composer and librettist kept the score loose and the words unscripted; it was at its worst when the composer and librettist were too scripted.”
Sondheim composed such hit songs as Tonight, Send in the Clowns, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Putting on the Ritz, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Those Were the Days, Figaro, and much more in a career spanning 60 years.
Pinegrove (@pinescoopz) Play’s reached every corner, and every level, and the mind of Stephen Sondheim cannot be isolated from everyone else’s mind.
On Twitter, mourners shared memories of his songs, and how they affected their lives.
@everstronggibson wrote: “I was eight when I saw Company. I still remember the feeling: I needed to burst into tears.”
@SondheimCulture tweeted: “His music and his words are indelible, and are part of me.”
@Scallywag posted: “God had a hand in Stephen Sondheim’s songs.”
Sondheim’s daughter Leslie told the Times her father “lived an extraordinary life”.
“He pursued his passions. And he pursued his art in a way that was at once accessible and intellectually provocative.”
She continued: “He was an unusual man, and I am still trying to reconcile all that made sense and all that didn’t make sense.”
Sondheim is survived by his wife, Mary, and their son, Jason.