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November 28, 2021

A Look Back at Stephen Sondheim Through the Years

Stephen Sondheim, the award-winning composer-lyricist who was said to have reinvented the American musical, has died at the age of 91 at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut. 

A giant of musical theater, Sondheim reinvented the Broadway show for his own generation. As a teenager, he had learned to compose music and lyrics at the knee of his mentor, Broadway great Oscar Hammerstein II. When Sondheim was hired by Leonard Bernstein to write the lyrics for the classic West Side Story, he was barely 25. by the time he was twenty-seven, he had already had his first show on Broadway.

1970s

In a career that lasted more than five decades, Sondheim created some of the greatest musicals of his time, including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), and Into the Woods (1987).

Sondheim's accolades include eight Tony Awards, an Academy Award, eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, a Laurence Olivier Award, and a 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has a theater named for him both on Broadway and in the West End of London. Widely acknowledged as one of the most important figures in 20th-century musical theatre, Sondheim was praised for having “reinvented the American musical” with shows that addressed “darker, more harrowing elements of the human experience” with “music and lyrics of unprecedented complexity and sophistication”.

Take a look back at the titan of the American musical through these 21 pictures:

1957

1961. (Richard Avedon)

1962. (Michael Hardy)

1969

1970s

1970s

Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein during A Musical Tribute to Stephen Sondheim at Shubert Theater in New York, 1973. (Ron Galella)

1976

Elizabeth Taylor and Stephen Sondheim recording the songs for the film 'A Little Night Music', 1976. (Graham Morris)

1977

Lee Remick and Lauren Bacall hugging Stephen Sondheim backstage after the opening of 'Side by Side' at the Music Box, 1977.

Stephen Sondheim, Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou recording 'Sweeney Todd', 1979.

Stephen Sondheim listening to the playback of the original cast recording of 'Sweeney Todd' at the RCA Studios, 1979.

Stephen Sondheim in rehearsal for 'Merrily We Roll Along', 1980. (Martha Swope)

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine posing in front of the marquee of the Booth Theatre, New York, 1985. (Sara Krulwich)

1986. (Yousuf Karsh)

1986. (Yousuf Karsh)

1986. (Yousuf Karsh)

James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim at Sondheim's Manhattan apartment in New York, 1987. (John Keating)

Stephen Sondheim listening to music in the recording control room during the original cast recording of 'Into The Woods', New York, 1987. (Oliver Morris)




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