Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)

Stephen Sondheim, the pre-eminent American musical-theater composer of the past 60 years, has died at 91.

Sondheim, a native New Yorker and protégé of Oscar Hammerstein II, was a pianist and songwriter from boyhood who began serious composition study in college. His first Broadway successes came in the 1950s, as the lyricist of Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” and Jules Styne’s “Gypsy.” Sondheim’s first hit as both composer and lyricist was “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” which opened in 1962.

Among his most acclaimed musicals were “Company” (1970), “A Little Night Music” (1973), “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (1979) and “Sunday in the Park with George” (1984). Sondheim also wrote film scores and adaptations of his stage shows for television and films. He was an advisor for Steven Spielberg’s new film of “West Side Story.”

“Send in the Clowns,” from “A Little Night Music,” is the best-known among many songs from his shows that became standards of popular music and cabaret.

Sondheim was the recipient of eight Tony Awards, an Academy Award for best original song (“Sooner or Later” from “Dick Tracy” in 1990), a Pulitzer Prize for drama (“Sunday in the Park with George” in 1985, shared with James Lapine, the show’s author and director) and, in 2015, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

An obituary by Bruce Weber for The New York Times, with a previously unreleased video interview from 2008: