Stephen Sondheim, master of musical theater, dead at 91, NY Times reports

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(CNN)Stephen Sondheim, the renowned composer of "Into the Woods," "Sweeney Todd," "Gypsy," "Sunday successful the Park with George" and different indispensable works of philharmonic theater, died aboriginal Friday morning, according to Aaron Meier astatine DKC O&M, the producers of Sondheim's existent accumulation "Company." He was 91.

Sondheim died suddenly, the New York Times reported, citing his lawyer and person F. Richard Pappas. Sondheim had conscionable celebrated Thanksgiving with a meal and friends the time before, Pappas told the Times.

As lyricist, songwriter, conceptual creator and originative force, Sondheim was possibly without par successful the modern American theater. His works encompassed astonishing range: the updated "Romeo and Juliet" romance of "West Side Story" (for which helium wrote the lyrics), the travails of a modern radical of friends and lovers successful "Company," adjacent the woes of statesmanlike murderers (and attempted murderers) successful "Assassins."

    Over the people of his career, helium won an Oscar, a Pulitzer, 8 Grammy Awards, 8 Tony Awards, a Kennedy Center grant and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Stephen Sondheim Theater successful Manhattan's Theater District is named for him.

      His opus lyrics, successful particular, were the golden modular of the theatre art, whether defiant ("Rose's Turn"), bittersweet ("Send successful the Clowns"), ominous ("Children Will Listen") oregon simply clever ("Ah, but Underneath").

      They were sometimes tricky -- filled with clever rhymes and challenging meters, possibly earthy for a antheral who erstwhile described himself arsenic "a mathematician by nature." But they seldom failed to get to the bosom of a character.

      "What's comic astir Steve's songs is you think, 'Oh, this is astir something,' and past you commencement moving connected it, and you go, 'No, it's astir SOMETHING,'" histrion Bernadette Peters, 1 of Sondheim's starring interpreters, told ABC News successful 2010. "It goes adjacent deeper than you imagined."

      Stephen Sondheim onstage during an lawsuit   astatine  the Fairchild Theater, East Lansing, Michigan, February 12, 1997.

      Sondheim was peculiarly bully astatine expressing romanticist longing and loss. Songs specified arsenic "Send successful the Clowns" (from "A Little Night Music"), "Losing My Mind" (from "Follies") and "Somewhere" (from "West Side Story") are heartbreaking successful their emotion.

      "For galore theatre lovers, determination are musicals, past determination are Sondheim musicals," wrote Garry Nunn successful the Guardian. "The second is simply a class of its ain due to the fact that with Sondheim, each azygous word, each rhyme has been labored implicit to the constituent that it's mellifluous and articulate (if a small garrulous)."

      Indeed, though his enactment was sometimes criticized arsenic glib, Sondheim said the joyousness of the theatre was touching audiences.

      "I'm funny successful the theatre due to the fact that I'm funny successful connection with audiences," helium told NPR's "Fresh Air" successful 2010. "Otherwise, I would beryllium successful performance music. I'd beryllium successful different benignant of profession. I emotion the theatre arsenic overmuch arsenic music, and the full thought of getting crossed to an assemblage and making them laugh, making them outcry -- conscionable making them consciousness -- is paramount to me."

      Beginnings

      Stephen Joshua Sondheim was calved March 22, 1930, successful New York, the lad of a well-off formal shaper and his wife, a designer. His parents divorced erstwhile Sondheim was an adolescent, and helium moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, extracurricular Philadelphia.

      Thanks to the tutelage of a friend's begetter -- lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II of the famed theatrical squad Rodgers and Hammerstein -- Sondheim, already a philharmonic prodigy, received a maestro people successful play writing.

      "He taught maine however to operation a song, what a quality was, what a country was; helium taught maine however to archer a story, however not to archer a story, however to marque signifier directions practical," Sondheim told the Paris Review successful 1997. "I soaked it each up, and I inactive signifier the principles helium taught maine that afternoon."

      Stephen Sondheim poses successful  beforehand   of a poster for 'Side by Side by Sondheim,' opening   connected  4 May 1976 astatine  the Mermaid Theatre successful  London, England, April 1976.

      Sondheim attended Williams College successful Massachusetts, wherever helium won a fellowship for his euphony that allowed him to proceed study. After a abbreviated stint successful Los Angeles -- wherever helium wrote scripts for the TV amusement "Topper," acknowledgment to a pb from Hammerstein -- helium returned to New York and embarked connected a vocation successful the theater.

      His archetypal success, astatine property 27, was arsenic lyricist to "West Side Story," with euphony by Leonard Bernstein. The musical's celebrated songs see "America," "Tonight," "I Feel Pretty" and "Somewhere." Though Sondheim aboriginal called the lyrics "embarrassing," the amusement was a monolithic hit, moving for astir 1,000 performances.

      Next came 1959's "Gypsy," the communicative of Gypsy Rose Lee and her mother, Rose, for which Sondheim worked with composer Jule Styne, and 1962's "A Funny Thing Happened connected the Way to the Forum," for which Sondheim wrote some euphony and lyrics.

      A agelong adust spell followed, yet snapped successful 1970 with "Company," which ran for much than a twelvemonth and took location a Tony for champion musical. It besides marked the opening of Sondheim's 11-year collaboration with producer-director Hal Prince, which included specified hits arsenic "Follies" (1971), "A Little Night Music" (1973) and "Sweeney Todd" (1979).

      "A Little Night Music" produced what is possibly Sondheim's best-known song, "Send successful the Clowns."

      A bold assemblage of enactment

      As Sondheim matured, nary thought seemed excessively far-fetched for his pen and intellect.

      "Company" and "Follies" were notable for their astir plotless presentations; "Pacific Overtures" (1976), astir the 19th-century American introduction into Japan, was performed kabuki-style. "Sweeney Todd" was a romp astir a murderous barber who has his victims made into nutrient pies.

      U.S. President Barack Obama (R) presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to theatre  composers and lyricists Stephen Sondheim (L)  during an East Room ceremonial  November 24, 2015 astatine  the White House successful  Washington, DC.

      In the '80s and '90s, helium wrote a philharmonic astir French pointillist creator Georges Seurat, "Sunday successful the Park with George" (1984), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. "Into the Woods" (1987), astir apt his most-performed work, was a recasting of Grimm's fairy tales. "Assassins" (1990) was an improbable communicative astir statesmanlike assassins past and present.

      His past caller enactment was 2008's "Road Show," astir a brace of social-climbing brothers. It ne'er made it to Broadway.

      Though his aboriginal works, specified arsenic "West Side Story" and "Gypsy," were made into movies, his post-1970 enactment mostly resisted the transition.

      PBS and Showtime filmed "Sunday successful the Park" for television, a mentation aboriginal released with Sondheim's commentary. "Sweeney Todd" was made into a 2007 Tim Burton movie starring Johnny Depp, and "Into the Woods," with a formed including Meryl Streep and aboriginal late-night big James Corden, was filmed successful 2014.

      A caller adaptation of "West Side Story" is owed retired adjacent period from manager Steven Spielberg.

      Sondheim earned his Oscar for a opus helium wrote for 1990's "Dick Tracy," "Sooner oregon Later." A New Yorker to his core, helium didn't be the ceremony.

      The theater, however, was different matter. A 2010 reappraisal for his 80th birthday, "Sondheim connected Sondheim," earned rapturous reviews and a reconsideration of his agelong career. The composer, a reticent antheral erstwhile not waxing rhapsodically astir his Clement Wood rhyming dictionary oregon praising his collaborators, was typically humble astir the reaction.

      A virtual concert celebrating Sondheim's 90th day and assemblage of enactment was organized past twelvemonth amid the planetary pandemic. The concert, which raised wealth for Artists Striving to End Poverty, featured appearances and performances from Broadway heavyweights similar Lin-Manuel Miranda, Audra McDonald and Patti LuPone.

      "It's been a small excessively overmuch successful the nationalist spotlight," helium told "Fresh Air's" Terry Gross. "But the outpouring of enthusiasm and affection has been worthy it. It's terrific to cognize that radical similar your stuff."

      Tributes

      Some of the galore radical who've performed Sondheim's enactment oregon been moved by it flooded societal media with tributes pursuing quality of his death.

      "Thank the Lord that Sondheim lived to beryllium 91 years aged truthful helium had the clip to constitute specified fantastic euphony and GREAT lyrics!" Barbra Streisand wrote. "May helium Rest In Peace."

        "Perhaps not since April 23rd of 1616 has theatre mislaid specified a revolutionary voice," histrion Josh Gad wrote. "Thank you Mr. Sondheim for your Demon Barber, immoderate Night Music, a Sunday successful the Park, Company, amusive astatine a Forum, a travel Into the Woods and telling america a West Side Story. RIP."

        Actor Aaron Tviet said: "Thank you for everything Mr Sondheim. Speechless. We are truthful fortunate to person what you've fixed the world."

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