Barbra Streisand, Hugh Jackman, Idina Menzel, and Jake Gyllenhaal were among the celebrities using social media to pay their respects to legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, who passed away at the age of 91 on Friday.
‘Thank the Lord that Sondheim lived to be 91 years old so he had the time to write such wonderful music and GREAT lyrics. May he rest In peace,’ tweeted Streisand.
Sondheim famously presented the now 79-year-old vocalist with the coveted Grammy Legend Award back in 1992.
Rest in peace: Barbra Streisand, Hugh Jackman, Idina Menzel, and Jake Gyllenhaal were among the stars using social media to pay their respects to legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, who passed away at the age of 91 on Friday; seen in 2017
Menzel, 50, took to Twitter to mourn Sondheim, by writing: ‘Goodbye dear sir. We will spend our lives trying to make you proud.’
Meanwhile, Jackman, wrote: ‘Every so often someone comes along that fundamentally shifts an entire art form. Stephen Sondheim was one of those.’
The action star, 53, who has been in multiple Broadway shows, continued: ‘As millions mourn his passing I also want to express my gratitude for all he has given to me and so many more. Sending my love to his nearest and dearest.’
‘Thank the Lord that Sondheim lived to be 91 years old so he had the time to write such wonderful music and GREAT lyrics. May he rest In peace,’ tweeted Streisand
Tributes: Additionally, Idina Menzel took to Twitter to mourn Sondheim, by writing: ‘Goodbye dear sir. We will spend our lives trying to make you proud’
‘Every so often someone comes along that fundamentally shifts an entire art form. Stephen Sondheim was one of those,’ Hugh Jackson tweeted
Heartfelt: Gyllenhaal shared a never-before-seen photo of the star during curtain call on the opening night of Sunday in the Park with George, in which he starred as French painter Georges Seurat
Gyllenhaal shared a never-before-seen photo of the star during curtain call on the opening night of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Sunday in the Park with George, in which he starred as French painter Georges Seurat.
‘I am grateful to have shared time with the master and maestro of American musical theater, and to have played his George,’ he captioned the photo on Instagram.
He continued: ‘We have lost a giant. We will miss you. Rest In Peace.’
While Anna Kendrick, who starred in the film adaption of Into the Woods with music and lyrics by Sondheim, added: ‘I was just talking to someone a few nights ago about how much fun (and f****** difficult) it is to sing Stephen Sondheim. Performing his work has been among the greatest privileges of my career. A devastating loss. (sic)’
Lin-Manuel Miranda, who directed the musical drama Tick, Tick… Boom, which Sondheim made a cameo in, also grieved his friend’s passing.
‘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 theorize Shakespeare’s works were by committee but Steve was real & he was here & he laughed SO loud at shows & we loved him,’ the Hamilton creator tweeted.
Earlier this month, Miranda described his latest project as a ‘love letter to Sondheim’ on the Little Gold Men podcast.
Speaking of their relationship, he gushed he ‘showed him drafts of the script’ with Sondheim and even a screener of the film.
The famed American composer and lyricist passed away ‘suddenly’ at his Roxbury, Conn. home, according to his lawyer F. Richard Pappas, The New York Times reported.
Pappas said that Sondheim had celebrated Thanksgiving the day prior with his friends surrounding him.
Sondheim created the music for a celebrated list of shows that include A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sunday In The Park With George and more.
Vanessa Williams described working with the visionary as an honor and said it was a ‘privilege to have soaked up’ his ‘incredible aura’ while portraying the Witch in Into the Woods back in 2002.
After working together on her Tony-nominated role, she sang for him at the at the Sondheim Hollywood Bowl tribute in 2005 and then again while ‘performing in the show stopping production of Sondheim on Sondheim on Broadway in 2010.’
‘American musical theater has lost a towering giant. Stephen Sondheim’s legacy of song and lyric in unparalleled. From West Side Story to Sweenie Todd, from Gypsy to Sunday in the Park with George, there will never be a master like him,’ George Takei tweeted
Paying homage: Robert Rinder shared a quote about Sondheim, which read: ‘Art is infinite. It has no beginning and no end’
‘I only ever got a few musical notes from him which were about diction but immediately incorporated and cherished every word,’ she wrote on Instagram.
She continued: ‘The puzzle he gave me remains on my desk still today which reminds me of being invited to his unique brownstone which was chock full of games, books and thought provoking oddities.’
As a musical theater major in college, that once studied his work, she admitted to never dreaming of beign able to ‘stand next to him’ or singing him Happy Birthday, which she was ‘honored’ to do.
‘I was so lucky,blessed and honored to have Mr. Stephen Sondheim see me, hear me and always remember my name. Rest in Musical Peace in Heaven because your music and talent will always live on,’ she continued.
The composer was born on March 22, 1930, to his upper-middle-class parents, Herbert and Janet Sondheim in New York City.
His father was a dress manufacturer while his mother worked in the same industry as a fashion designer and interior decorator.
At a very young age, he studied piano for two years which is where his interest in the musical stage began, and continued throughout his education.
‘Just posted this last night as I walked into my friend’s house for Thanksgiving. F**k,’ captioned a doormat that read: ‘Phone rings door chimes in comes company’
‘Incredible that Sondheim himself gave us the very lexicon of expressions through which to grieve him,’ Marc Snetiker 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 theorize Shakespeare’s works were by committee but Steve was real & he was here & he laughed SO loud at shows & we loved him,’ Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted
After his parents divorced when he was 10, he took solace in his time with the family of lyricist, producer and librettist Oscar Hammerstein, who won eight Tony Awards and two Oscars for Best Original Song over his career.
At 15, he began writing his first musical By George, which was a satire inspired by his high school in Newtown, Pennsylvania.
He brought the musical to Hammerstein and solicited the master’s straightforward opinion – to which Hammerstein replied that the show was the worst he had ever read.
There followed a conversation that has become legendary in theatrical history, where Hammerstein taught the teenage Sondheim the necessary mechanics of writing an effective stage musical.
‘It’s a central principle, which is to treat songs like little one-act plays, where you present a situation, and then either resolve it or if you don’t resolve it move it forward, so that by the time you finish the song you’re at a different point than you are when you – this is in terms of the story of the show, of the play – so that each song has a function,’ he said on Desert Island Discs.
‘What a privilege to have soaked up the incredible aura of legendary Stephen Sondheim in person many times in my life,’ Vanessa Williams captioned a sweet Instagram post
‘Not the obituary I wanted to read ever,’ journalist Dan Savage
Sondheim came to regard Hammerstein as a parental figure amid his tortured relationship with his mother Foxy, whom he eventually supported in her later years out of what he described as ‘filial duty’ rather than actual affection.
His career spanned more than 60 years, and he was known for co-creating Broadway theatre classics including Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods, which both went on to become hit movies.
West Side Story became his first produced Broadway musical when he was just 27 years old in 1957, and he went on to be praised for having ‘reinvented the American musical.’
Brilliant from the start: The composer was born on March 22, 1930, to his upper-middle-class parents, Herbert and Janet Sondheim in NYC
Although he studied to be a composer, he found himself much to his frustration only writing lyrics on West Side Story – a role he repeated two years later on the Ethel Merman vehicle Gypsy, which also garnered a reputation as one of the great Broadway shows of all time.
Ultimately he itched to turn his hand to composing and got his first shot with the 1961 comedy A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, which became a massive success with Zero Mostel in the lead.
However as the 1960s wore on he earned some experience with flops, including Do I Hear A Waltz? with music by Richard Rodgers.
Sondheim reluctantly returned to being just a lyricist for that show in order to fulfill a deathbed promise to Hammerstein, and it became the one musical he regretted.
Then however came the 1970s which have come to be seen by many of his fans as the hero period of his career – his string of collaborations with director Hal Prince.
First came Company, an acid-tongued show about marriage and relationships that brought a new level of urbane maturity to the musical comedy and, as a ‘concept musical’, experimented with a plotless structure.
In Follies he dazzled the audience with elegant pastiches of various genres from Viennese operetta to interwar Ziegfeld extravaganzas to Fred Astaire toe-tappers – all as a backdrop to a stark depiction of two marriages fraying at the seams.
Honors: Above, Sondheim is presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2015
Through the middle of the decade he and Prince worked on A Little Night Music, a sophisticated romance based on the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles Of A Summer Night, and Pacific Overtures, a tribute to kabuki theater about the fraught origins of Japan’s relationship to the western world.
It was at the end of the decade though that he and Prince produced Sweeney Todd, an operetta about a homicidal barber and the pie shop owner who is romantically obsessed with him – and who finds a gruesome way to dispose of his victims.
Sondheim drew heavily from the film composer Bernard Hermann, known for such movies as Psycho, and has described Sweeney as a ‘movie for the stage.’
Although the show was initially not a success, particularly when it went to London, it has come to be regarded as his reigning masterpiece and has been described by Sondheim himself as the easiest show for him to write. ‘It just flowed,’ he remarked.
However the grand epoch of the Sondheim-Prince collaboration came crashing down with the massive failure of Merry We Roll Along, a sour experimental musical that confounded audiences by going backwards in time.
Celebrated in life: Sondheim seen after winning the Society of London Theatre Special Award in 2011
As he wrote at the end of the first part of his collected lyrics: ‘But then I met James Lapine.’
Lapine was the writer-director with whom Sondheim enjoyed an extremely fruitful collaboration in the 1980s.
Their first show was Sunday In The Park With George, the life story of the 19th century French painter Georges Seurat and the show that brought Sondheim together with his late-in-life muse Bernadette Peters.
Sunday In The Park With George included the song Finishing The Hat, which has become widely regarded as Sondheim’s own personal treatise on how he works.
Sondheim, Lapine and Peters were together again with Into The Woods, a set of fractured fairytales that turns into a moving exploration of parenthood.
Later in life he scored such musicals as Passion, a romantic melodrama based on an Italian film, and Assassins, a blackly comic show about the people who have either killed or attempted to kill American presidents.
He continued working into the 21st century on such musicals as The Frogs and Road Show and at the end of his life was collaborating on a new musical called Square One.
60-year long career: Sondheim seen standing beside an advertisement for one of his shows in 1976
Beyond talented: The composer had his first big hit with West Side Story when he was just 27 years old, and he went on to be praised for having ‘reinvented the American musical’ (pictured in 1973)
Bernadette Peters and Nathan Lane, two longtime interpreters of his material, starred in a table read just this year of the show which featured a book by David Ives and is thought to have been about the life of surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel.
As for his own love life, Sondheim’s affairs included Psycho star Anthony Perkins, with whom he co-wrote the murder mystery film The Last Of Sheila in the 1970s.
However what he called his ‘first serious relationship’ only took place when he was 60 years old, with playwright Peter Jones.
At the end of his life he was the husband of one Jeff Romley, who is a half-century his junior and married him back in 2017.
Titans of Broadway have admired him and leapt at every chance to sing him, including the late actresses Elaine Stritch and Barbara Cook.
Angela Lansbury was a longtime muse, leading the original London cast of Gypsy and the original Broadway productions of Anyone Can Whistle and Sweeney Todd.
Lyricists were also in awe, including his contemporary Fred Ebb, who in the book Colored Lights recalled how delighted he felt to have one of his shows praised by Sondheim. ‘Jesus, I was thrilled!’ said Ebb.
Impressive: Sondheim’s career spanned more than 60 years, and he was known for co-creating Broadway theatre classics including Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods, which both went on to become hit movies; seen in 2008
Yet his admirers also often found him intimidating and inscrutable – even Elaine Stritch, who once demanded of a director: ‘You’re scared of me, aren’t you?’, described feeling both ‘in love with’ Sondheim and ‘scared to death’ around him.
She recalled sitting at a bar with him ‘for three hours’ and remarked: ‘So we have got a lot to say to one another. But I have got to have 25 scotches in me in order to do it, and so does he.’
On the news of his death, producer Cameron Mackintosh issued a statement to The Guardian which read: ‘The theatre has lost one of its greatest geniuses and the world has lost one of its greatest and most original writers. Sadly, there is now a giant in the sky. But the brilliance of Stephen Sondheim will still be here as his legendary songs and shows will be performed for evermore. Goodbye old friend and thank you from all of us.’