Musical theatre icon Stephen Sondheim has died, aged 91

26 November 2021, 23:19 | Updated: 10 January 2022, 09:23

Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics to West Side Story
Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics to West Side Story. Picture: Alamy

By Tom Eames

Stephen Sondheim, the man behind musicals such as West Side Story and Sweeney Todd has passed away.

The legendary lyricist is best known for writing songs for iconic shows including Gypsy, Into the Wood, Company and many more.

It has been reported that Stephen Sondheim's death at his home in Connecticut was sudden, as just hours earlier he had celebrated Thanksgiving with his family.

He was awarding him with the presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, with President Barack Obama saying he had "reinvented the American musical".

"His greatest hits aren't tunes you can hum; they're reflections on roads we didn't take, and wishes gone wrong, relationships so frayed and fractured there's nothing left to do but send in the clowns."

Stephen Sondheim with Barbra Streisand
Stephen Sondheim with Barbra Streisand. Picture: Alamy

In December 2019, a theatre on London's West End was named after Sondheim to celebrate his 90th birthday, with Les Misérables currently playing there.

Stephen Sondheim's biggest musicals have been turned into movies, including 2014's Into The Woods and 2007's Sweeney Todd.

He wrote the lyrics for West Side Story, which became a hit movie in 1961 and is receiving a remake by Steven Spielberg later this year.

Sondheim's achievements included nine Tony Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Tony in 2008), an Academy Award, eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, a Laurence Olivier Award, and a 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He did not come out as gay until he was 40 years old. He married his partner Jeffrey Scott Romley in 2017.