Broadway icon Stephen Sondheim is dead at 91; winner of numerous Tonys alongside a Pulitzer Prize and an Oscar

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NEW YORK (AP) – Stephen Sondheim, the songwriter who reshaped American musical theater in the late 20th century with his intelligent, complex rhyming lyrics, use of evocative melodies and his desire to tackle unusual themes, has died Is. He was 91 years old.

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From WSJ.com (March 2021): Why Stephen Sondheim Is America’s Greatest Living Writer

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Sondheim’s death was announced by his Texas-based attorney, Rick Pappas, who told the New York Times that the musician died Friday at his home in Roxbury, Conn.

Pappa did not return calls and messages to The Associated Press.

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Sondheim influenced several generations of theater songwriters, especially with historical musicals such as “Company,” “Foliage” and “Sweeney Todd,” considered among his best works. His most famous ballad, “Send in the Clown”, has been recorded hundreds of times, featuring Frank Sinatra and Judy Collins.

The artist refused to repeat himself, finding inspiration for his shows in such diverse subjects as the Ingmar Bergman film (“A Little Night Music”), the opening of Japan to the West (“Pacific Overture”), the French painter Georges Seurat (“A Little Night’s Music”). Sunday in the Park with George”), Grimm’s fairy tales (“Into the Woods”) and even the assassins of American presidents (“Assassins”), among others.

From the archives (September 2021): Broadway is back – are the high ticket prices too?

“Theater has lost one of its greatest talents and the world has lost one of its greatest and most original writers. Sadly, there is now a giant in the sky. But Stephen Sondheim’s genius is right now.” Will also be here as his famous songs and shows will be showcased forever,” producer Cameron Mackintosh wrote in tribute.

Six of Sondheim’s musicals won the Tony Award for Best Score, and also received a Pulitzer Prize (“Sunday in the Park”), an Academy Award (for the song “Sooner or Later” from the film “Dick Tracy”), five Olivier . Awards and Presidential Medal of Honor. In 2008, he received a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Sondheim’s music and lyrics gave his show a dark, dramatic edge, whereas before him, the music’s dominant tone was foamy and comical. He was sometimes criticized as a composer of inhumane songs, a badge that did not bother Sondheim. Frank Sinatra, who had a hit with Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns”, once complained: “If he wrote more songs for saloon singers like me, he could have made me a lot happier.”

For theater fans, Sondheim’s sophistication and talent made her an icon. A Broadway theater was named after him. A cover of New York magazine asked, “Is Sondheim God?” The Guardian newspaper once posed the question: “Is Stephen Sondheim the Shakespeare of musical theatre?”

A supreme wordsmith – and an avid player of word games – the joy of Sondheim’s language shone through. “The opposite of left is right / the opposite of right is wrong / so the opposite of left is wrong, right?” He wrote in “Anyone Can Whistle”. In “Company”, he wrote the lines: “Good things get better / Bad gets worse / Wait – I guess I meant the reverse.”

He offered three principles essential to a songwriter in his first collection of songs:

• Content Dictates Form

• less is more

• God is in the details

All these truths, he wrote, were “in the service of clarity, without which nothing else matters.” Together they lead to surprising lines such as: “It’s a very short road from chutney and punch to punch and thali and pension.”

Taught by someone genius than Oscar Hammerstein, Sondheim pushed music into a deeper, richer and more intellectual space. “If you think of a theater song as a short story, as I do, every line is a weight of a paragraph,” he wrote in his 2010 book, “Finishing the Hat”. , the first volume of his collection of songs and comments.

View: Nobel laureates are really happy to review your work. Here’s what I’ve learned.

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