Stephen Sondheim, Broadway musical genius, dies at 91

Written by Staff Writer by Lisa Respers France, CNN

Six-time Tony Award winner Stephen Sondheim, who wrote a rich legacy of musical theater in his half-century career, has died, friends and family said. He was 91.

Sondheim, who received the Nobel Prize in Music in 1976, was celebrated for his songwriting and early work as a lyricist for composer George Furth.

He died on Friday at his home in a Manhattan townhouse, according to his friend Carol Fenelon.

“It’s a shame that he left us before Broadway saw another one of his masterpieces,” said Fenelon, whose work with Sondheim ranged from the Broadway musical “Assassins” to the musical adaptation of the hit “Follies.”

The producer Jerome Robbins said Sondheim was the “full-blown musical genius who gave us a body of work that includes the landmark ‘West Side Story,’ which he reimagined as a radical new staging.”

The star of “Saturday Night Fever” and “Follies” played opposite Hollywood legend Jack Nicholson in the 1975 film version of Sondheim’s classic, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”

Sondheim’s script helped craft the flawed human psyche in Jules Verne’s classic, “Around the World in 80 Days,” as well as the storybook love story of Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.”

“While it’s true that he’s responsible for ‘Send in the Clowns,’ he’s not responsible for that book,” Fenelon said, referring to Sondheim’s famously dark, crazy-quilt of a work.

“He’s responsible for the business of that piece, but he wasn’t the author of that. He wrote a love story. That’s one of his very brilliant strokes.”

Sondheim was born in Brooklyn on June 25, 1926. He grew up there as the only child of immigrant parents and served in the United States Army.

He began as a lyricist and music director before writing for the stage, screen and television.

He has won six Tony Awards, five Emmy Awards and two Oscars. He was also the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the National Medal of Arts, a Tony Honorary Award and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Sondheim is survived by his wife, lyricist James Lapine, and their daughter, musical performer Sophie Sondheim.

Leave a Comment