Scoring his first big hit with West Side Story at 27, the US composer and lyricist raised the art form’s status with moving and funny masterpieces including Follies and Company
Stephen Sondheim, the master craftsman of the American musical, has died at the age of 91. His death, at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, on Friday has prompted tributes throughout the entertainment industry and beyond. Andrew Lloyd Webber called him “the musical theatre giant of our times, an inspiration not just to two but to three generations [whose] contribution to theatre will never be equalled”. Cameron Mackintosh said: “The theatre has lost one of its greatest geniuses and the world has lost one of its greatest and most original writers. Sadly, there is now a giant in the sky. But the brilliance of Stephen Sondheim will still be here as his legendary songs and shows will be performed for evermore.”
Over the course of a celebrated career spanning more than 60 years, Sondheim co-created Broadway theatre classics such as West Side Story, Gypsy, Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods, all of which also became hit movies. His intricate and dazzlingly clever songs pushed the boundaries of the art form and he made moving and funny masterpieces from unlikely subject matters, including a murderous barber (Sweeney Todd), the Roman comedies of Plautus (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) and a pointillist painting by Georges Seurat (Sunday in the Park With George).