Credited with the reinvention of American musical, Stephen Sondheim was an endlessly creative innovator whose works broadened the artistic range that most musical playwrights were familiar with. The legendary pioneer passed away at the age of 91 at his Roxbury house last week, resulting in an irreversible loss to the fabric of American theatre and the world that grew up watching his works.
Upon hearing the news, other pioneers of the art form like Andrew Lloyd Webber paid their respects. “Farewell Steve, the musical theatre giant of our times, an inspiration not just to two but to three generations,” Webber wrote. “Your contribution to theatre will never be equalled.”
Bernadette Peters, the most prominent interpreter of Sondheim’s oeuvre revealed how she felt in a Tweet in which she expressed her sadness: “I am so so sad to lose my friend Steve Sondheim. He gave me so much to sing about. I loved him dearly and will miss him so much Thank you for all the gifts you gave the world Steve.”
Steven Spielberg, who is currently working on a film adaptation of West Side Story, said in a statement: “Stephen Sondheim was a gigantic figure in American culture — one of our country’s greatest songwriters, a lyricist and composer of real genius, and a creator of some of the most glorious musical dramas ever written.”
Spielberg also revealed that they discussed various politics at length and that Sondheim actually possessed a deep knowledge about film history and the world of cinema: “Steve and I became friends only recently, but we became good friends and I was surprised to discover that he knew more about movies than almost anyone I’d ever met.”
The filmmaker elaborated: “When we spoke, I couldn’t wait to listen, awestruck by the originality of his perceptions of art, politics and people — all delivered brilliantly by his mischievous wit and dazzling words. I will miss him very much, but he left a body of work that has taught us, and will keep teaching us, how hard and how absolutely necessary it is to love.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, another exciting new talent who considered Sondheim to be an important mentor, tweeted: “Future historians: Stephen Sondheim was real. Yes, he wrote Tony & Maria AND Sweeney Todd AND Bobby AND George & Dot AND Fosca AND countless more. Some may theorise Shakespeare’s works were by committee but Steve was real & he was here & he laughed SO loud at shows & we loved him.”
Check out the Twitter thread below.