Stephen Sondheim was hailed as one of the most influential and innovative voices in history of American musical theater by friends and fans following the composer’s death Friday at the age of 91.
Sondheim was remembered for his musically challenging works, for his inventive storytelling and his unique approach to crafting stage musicals.
Director Steven Spielberg whose “West Side Story” (out Dec. 10) features lyrics by the composer, shared a statement saying, “Stephen Sondheim was a gigantic figure in American culture — one of our country’s greatest songwriters, a lyricist and composer of real genius, and a creator of some of the most glorious musical dramas ever written. Steve and I became friends only recently, but we became good friends and I was surprised to discover that he knew more about movies than almost anyone I’d ever met.” He continued, “When we spoke, I couldn’t wait to listen, awestruck by the originality of his perceptions of art, politics and people — all delivered brilliantly by his mischievous wit and dazzling words. I will miss him very much, but he left a body of work that has taught us, and will keep teaching us, how hard and how absolutely necessary it is to love.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda thanked Sondheim during his 2008 Tony Award speech and said, “Mr. Sondheim, look, I made a hat where there never was a hat! It’s a Latin hat at that!” Sondheim also re-wrote the voicemail recording that is heard at the end of Miranda’s directorial debut, “Tick, Tick, …Boom!” Miranda said, “Steve was real & he was here & he laughed SO loud at shows & we loved him.”
& last week, when I wrote him to say his ears must be burning from the countless Sondheim kindnesses being shared from the generations of writers he mentored, he wrote this in reply.
Steve: you repaid your debt to Oscar 1000 times over. We love you. I love you. THANK YOU. -LMM pic.twitter.com/6aeHW4CWFH
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) November 27, 2021
Barbra Streisand was quick to comment on social media of her appreciation for the composer behind such Broadway landmarks as “Company,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Follies,” “A Little Night Music,” “Sunday in the Park With George,” “Merrily We Roll Along,” “Into the Wood” and “Assassins.”
“Thank the Lord that Sondheim lived to be 91 years old so he had time to write such wonderful music and GREAT lyrics,” Streisand wrote on Twitter.
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/vshNSdkvpQ
— Barbra Streisand (@BarbraStreisand) November 26, 2021
Versatile stage and screen actor Hugh Jackman hailed Sondheim as someone whose talent and body of work was strong enough to “fundamentally shift(s) an art form.”
“As millions mourn his passing I also want to express my gratitude for all he has given to me and so many more,” Jackman wrote.
Every so often someone comes along that fundamentally shifts an entire art form. Stephen Sondheim was one of those. As millions mourn his passing I also want to express my gratitude for all he has given to me and so many more. Sending my love to his nearest and dearest. pic.twitter.com/4KlnJJJipq
— Hugh Jackman (@RealHughJackman) November 26, 2021
Elaine Paige, who worked on Broadway with Sondheim in “Follies” and “Sweeney Todd,” called him a “dear man” and “one of the most important musical theater giants of his generation.”
Devastated to hear one of the most important musical theatre giants of our generation, #StephenSondheim, has died. I was lucky enough to have performed in two of his shows @FolliesBroadway & Sweeney Todd, & also have a song co-written by him for my 50th Anniversary. RIP dear man pic.twitter.com/1u8RURvcix
— Elaine Paige (@elaine_paige) November 26, 2021
Josh Gad, star of “The Book of Mormon,” echoed the acclaim of his fellow Broadway stars.
“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,” Gad wrote.
Perhaps not since April 23rd of 1616 has theater lost such a revolutionary voice. 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. 🙏 https://t.co/jHX7ob9JWv
— Josh Gad (@joshgad) November 26, 2021
Lea Salonga, the Broadway veteran who took part in a 90th birthday tribute to Sondheim last year, said simply: “We shall be singing your songs forever.”
Rest In Peace, Stephen Sondheim, and thank you for your vast contributions to musical theater. We shall be singing your songs forever. Oh, my heart hurts…
— Lea Salonga (@MsLeaSalonga) November 26, 2021
Tony-winner Idina Menzel shared that sentiment: “We will spend our lives trying to make you proud.”
Goodbye dear sir. We will spend our lives trying to make you proud. #stephensondheim
— Idina Menzel (@idinamenzel) November 26, 2021
Fellow composer Benjamin Scheuer offered an example of Sondheim’s famous generosity to up-and-coming tunesmiths. He tweeted a photo of a short type-written letter from Sondheim complimenting Scheuer on his 2015 production “The Lion.”
“Never did I expect this letter, which arrived in my dressing room the next day,” Scheuer wrote.
One of the greatest honors of my career was performing THE LION with Stephen Sondheim in the audience. Never did I expect this letter, which arrived in my dressing room the next day. What extraordinary kindness & generosity. Here's to you, Stephen. Thanks for the songs. pic.twitter.com/vX2fXCJlti
— Benjamin Scheuer (@BenjaminScheuer) November 26, 2021
Anna Kendrick who starred as Cinderella in Rob Marshall’s adaptation of “Into The Woods,” called Sondheim’s death “a devastating loss.”
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.
— Anna Kendrick (@AnnaKendrick47) November 26, 2021
Vanessa Williams who played the Wicked Witch on Broadway in the 1994 revival of “Into the Woods,” wrote, “What a privilege to have soaked up the incredible aura of legendary Stephen Sondheim in person many times in my life. First , playing the Witch on Broadway in the 2002 “Into the Woods” , then singing at the Sondheim Hollywood Bowl tribute in 2005 and then again performing in the show stopping production of “Sondheim on Sondheim” on Broadway in 2010. I only ever got a few musical notes from him which were about diction but immediately incorporated and cherished every word.”
And Bernadette Peters who frequently appeared in Sondheim’s productions including “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Into The Woods” and “A Little Night Music,” wrote, “I am so so sad to lose my friend Steve Sondheim He gave me so much to sing about.”
I am so so sad to lose my friend Steve Sondheim He gave me so much to sing about ♥️♥️I loved him dearly and will miss him so much Thank you for all the gifts you gave the world Steve♥️
— Bernadette Peters (@OfficialBPeters) November 26, 2021
Antonio Banderas who is in Spain producing a version of “Company,” shared that he had just finished performing the finale, “Being Alive.”
Just about 1h ago I was singing “Being Alive”, the final musical number of #COMPANY in our production here in Spain.
Now I am in home, still with rests of make up on my face crying the death of our maestro. One of the huge legends of musical theatre. A giant. May he RIP #Sondheim pic.twitter.com/7EbDszL0NB
— Antonio Banderas (@antoniobanderas) November 26, 2021