On Friday, the world lost a legend in Stephen Sondheim, who died at the age of 91 in his Roxbury, Connecticut home. Sondheim was an all-time great lyricist and composer, who was famous for his prolific work in theatre for musicals such as West Side Story, Into the Woods and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Following the loss, it was instantly clear how much he touched the lives of so many in the Broadway and Hollywood community, as many of them took time to pay tribute to his life and career.
Stephen Sondheim’s career really got going in the late 50s when his first musical to hit Broadway, West Side Story, opened when he was just 27. Since then, Sondheim composed a ton more musicals that continue to be revived and adapted to this day, and will do so for decades and decades to come. Lin-Manuel Miranda took to Twitter to remember the composer and lyricist.
Future historians: Stephen Sondheim was real. Yes, he wrote Tony & Maria AND Sweeney Todd AND Bobby AND George & Dot AND Fosca AND countless more. Some may theorize Shakespeare’s works were by committee but Steve was real & he was here & he laughed SO loud at shows & we loved himNovember 27, 2021
Lin-Manuel Miranda got to work with Stephen Sondheim, when he approached Miranda to adapt West Side Story in Spanish for a 2009 Broadway revival. Additionally, Sondheim was portrayed by Bradley Whitford in Miranda’s recently released directorial debut, Tick, Tick… Boom! Sondheim’s actual voice can be heard at the end of the movie during a voicemail to Rent composer Jonathan Larson, who he supported and mentored ahead of his success.
Barbra Streisand, who recorded eight of his songs in her 1985 The Broadway Album, also shared her love for the late composer. In her words:
Thank the Lord that Sondheim lived to be 91 years old so he had the time to write such wonderful music and GREAT lyrics! May he Rest In Peace🥲🎵 🎶🎵 pic.twitter.com/vshNSdkvpQNovember 26, 2021
Hollywood star Jake Gyllenhaal took to Instagram to share a picture of Sondheim when he worked with him to revive his musical, A Sunday In The Park With George back in 2017. He said he was “grateful” to have worked with the “master and maestro of American musical theater” at the time:
Anna Kendrick, who starred in the movie adaptation of his musical Into The Woods in 2014 as Cinderella, also shared her thoughts after his passing. Although she admits singing his compositions was not easy, having the chance to do so is an experience she considers “among the greatest privileges” of her career.
I was just talking to someone a few nights ago about how much fun (and fucking difficult) it is to sing Stephen Sondheim. Performing his work has been among the greatest privileges of my career. A devastating loss.November 26, 2021
Alan Menken, who is also a prolific composer, best known for his work in Disney movies like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast also paid homage to his colleague. In his words:
There is such a void, knowing we now suddenly live in a world without Stephen Sondheim in it. And yet, he will always be with us in his brilliant and peerless music and lyrics; a legacy for the ages.November 27, 2021
Strangely enough, news of Sondheim’s death comes right as Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is getting ready to debut in theaters next month. Ariana DeBose, who will play Anita in the movie, and was part of the Hamilton original cast said this:
I am at a loss. Feels like the end of an era. He did indeed set the standard for the American musical. Rest well, sir. #StephenSondheimNovember 26, 2021
And Rachel Zegler, who will be introduced in the upcoming West Side Story as Maria, shared her personal experience with Stephen Sondheim with this touching tweet:
stephen sondheim once told me that he listened to everything people sent him: their motifs, their experimental ballads, their possible eleven o’clock numbers. that was the kind of artist he was— a master at his craft yet still learning from those he inspired. ❤️November 27, 2021
It’s safe to say every generation has been touched by Stephen Sondheim throughout his long-running career and as we remember his memory, he’ll live on through his incredible work. You can listen to his lyrics on the big screen when West Side Story hits theaters on December 10.