HomeEntertainmentStephen Sondheim, Legendary Songwriter Known for ‘Sweeney Todd’ and More, Dead at 91

Stephen Sondheim, Legendary Songwriter Known for ‘Sweeney Todd’ and More, Dead at 91

(Photo by Graham Morris/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Broadway just lost another legend. Stephen Sondheim. If you’ve been a fan of any hit musicals over the past handful of decades, then chances are you’ve also unknowingly been a fan of Stephen Sondheim. But his reach didn’t just end there. It also spanned into classic film. From “West Side Story” to “Sweeney Todd,” the man behind the music was Sondheim.

The Times called him one of the most influential lyricists and composers of the latter portion of the 20th century. They were also the first to report on the 91-year-old’s death early this morning at his Connecticut home. F. Richard Pappas, his friend, announced that the death came suddenly and unexpectedly. Just one day prior, Sondheim celebrated Thanksgiving with friends at a dinner in Roxbury.

Remembering Tony-Award-Winning Stephen Sondheim

Sondheim found success with his very first Broadway work. A comedy, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” showcased both his lyrics and music in 1962. It went on for a run of over two years and even earned him a Tony Award for Best Musical.

Sondheim kept the critics raving well throughout the 70s and 80s as well. It’s hard to narrow down his lengthy resume, but you might recognize some of the following: Follies, Company, A Little Night Music, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods, and Pacific Overtures.

IMDb credits Stephen Sondheim with over a dozen prestigious awards and nominations over the years. Many of his works have also been reimagined, like Spielberg’s take on “West Side Story,” which features Sondheim’s lyrics. Before his passing, Sondheim actually candidly spoke about the project with Stephen Colbert.

How He Really Feels About the ‘West Side Story’ Remake

Remakes are always an iffy territory. Sometimes (rarely it could even be said), they do the work justice. Other times (more often than not), they tend to fall flat. In the case of Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner’s upcoming release, Stephen Sondheim said he actually approves of the project.

“It’s really terrific,” Sondheim said of the film before his passing. “Everybody go. You’ll really have a good time. And for those of you who know the show, there’s going to be some real surprises.” He then continued the praise saying that Kushner especially “has done some really imaginative and surprising things with the way the songs are used in the story, and the whole thing has a real sparkle to it and real energy, and it feels fresh. It’s really first-grade, and movie musicals are hard to do and this one, Spielberg and Kushner really, really nailed it.”

It officially releases on December 10th.

Sondheim is survived by his husband, Jeffrey Romley, as well as a half-brother, Walter Sondheim.