Stephen Sondheim, Musical Theater Icon, Dead at 91

Stephen Sondheim

Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, one of the most influential musical theater figures of the 20th Century, died Friday at the age of 91, according to The New York Times.

Sondheim’s death was confirmed by lawyer and friend F. Richard Pappas, who described his passing as “sudden.” He had just celebrated Thanksgiving with friends at his Roxbury, Conn. home on Thursday.

“Perhaps not since April 23rd of 1616 [when William Shakespeare died] has theater lost such a revolutionary voice,” Tony Award nominee Josh Gad suggested on Twitter. “Thank you Mr. Sondheim for your Demon Barber, some Night Music, a Sunday in the Park, Company, fun at a Forum, a trip Into the Woods and telling us a West Side Story. RIP.”

“Thank the Lord that Sondheim lived to be 91 years old so he had the time to write such wonderful music and GREAT lyrics!” said EGOT winner Barbra Streisand on Twitter. “May he Rest In Peace.”

“Rest In Peace, Stephen Sondheim, and thank you for your vast contributions to musical theater,” tweeted Tony winner Lea Salonga. “We shall be singing your songs forever.”

In addition to his eight Tonys, Sondheim was the recipient of seven Grammys, an Academy Award, a Laurence Olivier Award, a Pulitzer Prize, and a 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom. His most well-known works include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979), Sunday in the Park With George (1984) and Into the Woods (1987). He also provided lyrics for West Side Story (1957) and Gypsy (1959).

One of his earliest jobs was writing for television. He is credited on six episodes of the CBS comedy Topper, which ran for two seasons between 1953 and 1955. It earned a Primetime Emmy nomination for Best Situation Comedy in 1954.

In 2007, Sondheim voiced a fictionalized version of himself in a Season 18 episode of The Simpsons.

Neil Gaiman shared on Twitter that Sondheim “wrote me a wonderful permission letter to use ‘Old Friends’ [from Merrily We Roll Along] in American Gods. I avoided meeting him (failed only once) and refused dinner because I didn’t have many heroes. Now I’ve got one less. Thank you Stephen Sondheim so much.”

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Oscar winner Meryl Streep joined The Good Fight‘s Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald for an at-home rendition of Company‘s “The Ladies Who Lunch,” as part of Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration benefiting ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty). Watch below:

Sondheim made his final television appearance in September, when he appeared as a guest on CBS’ The Late Show With Stephen Colbert:

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