Stephen Sondheim is one of the most recognizable names in all musical theatre. He wrote and composed some of the greatest musicals of our time and he had a wealth of talent and knowledge that helped him leave a legacy that will never be forgotten. He tragically passed away Friday, November 26th, 2021, at the age of 91.
Kicking off his career in 1957, Sondheim wrote the lyrics for “West Side Story” following it up with “Gypsy.” Sondheim finally had his shot to write both lyrics and music with the show “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” which went on to win six Tony awards.
Sondheim also wrote the music and lyrics for “Company,” “Sweeny Todd,” “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Into the Woods,” and “Assassins,” just to name a few. Sondheim won eight Tony awards, six of which being for best original score. He also received a Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre award at the 2008 Tony’s. Furthermore, he has won eight Grammys, an Academy Award, a Pulitzer Prize, and eight Drama Desk awards..
At a young age, Sondheim was mentored by the legendary Oscar Hammerstein II, who even designed a series of challenges for the young lyricist. Sondheim later returned the favor, mentoring Johnathan Larson for a time and giving notes to Lin-Manuel Miranda while he was writing Hamilton.
Sondheim knew how to write a good show. He was able to eloquently blend together many types of tempos, genres, and levels of complexity, while making it all sound like one cohesive whole. His sound is so uniquely Sondheim. Many of his works have been adapted to a larger scale, with a “West Side Story” motion picture directed by Stephen Spielberg being set to release December 10th.
It is obvious that Stephen Sondheim was uniquely impactful on Broadway as a whole. He is leaving a large gap that, while never truly being filled, will be built upon by the future generations of talent that will always look up to him. He was truly an icon that spans from the golden era of musical theatre to its vastly different contemporary counterpart. There will never be a talented soul like Stephen Sondheim again, but his work and his legacy will always live on. Where there is a stage, rest assured a Sondheim production is never far off.