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  27 Nov 2021, 09:45

Revered Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim dies aged 91

  WASHINGTON, Nov 27, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - Legendary Broadway songwriter Stephen
Sondheim, widely credited with revolutionizing American musical theater, died
Friday at the age of 91.

  Rick Miramontez, the publicist for the ongoing Broadway production of
Sondheim's musical "Company," confirmed to AFP that the musical theater titan
had passed away.

  Sondheim's attorney F. Richard Pappas said Sondheim -- known for works
including "West Side Story" and "Sweeney Todd" -- died suddenly in his
Roxbury, Connecticut home the day after celebrating Thanksgiving with
friends.

  "There are no words. He had them all. And the music. He was incomparable,"
the UK-based Stephen Sondheim Society, which is dedicated to promoting and
studying his work, tweeted along with three heart emojis, one of them broken.

  Born on March 22, 1930 in New York City, Sondheim was involved in musical
theater from an early age, even though both of his parents worked in the
fashion industry.

  He started playing piano at age seven and was family friends with Oscar
Hammerstein II, half of the famed musical theater writing duo Rodgers and
Hammerstein who wrote shows including "Oklahoma!" and "The Sound of Music."

  Sondheim's first professional writing job was for the television comedy
"Topper" in the 1950s. He also wrote crossword puzzles for New York magazine
from 1968 to 1969, which contributed to his writing style and sense of
theatrical misdirection in his plays.

  His major breakthrough on Broadway came with "West Side Story" in 1957,
quickly followed by "Gypsy" two years later.

  - Prolific career -

  Throughout his more than five decades-long career, Sondheim won eight
Grammy awards, eight Tony awards -- including the special Lifetime
Achievement in the Theatre -- one Academy Award and a Pulitzer. He was
nominated for many more Grammys and Tonys, as well as two Golden Globes.

  Two of Sondheim's shows, "Company" and "Assassins," were revived on
Broadway this fall.

  In 2015, then-US president Barack Obama presented Sondheim with the
Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, for his
life's work.

  The composer and lyricist's repertoire includes much-loved shows such as "A
Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "Into the Woods" and "Sweeney
Todd."

  Sondheim, who was gay, reportedly lived alone until his 60s, keeping his
sexuality under wraps. In 2017, he married his partner Jeffrey Romley, who
survives him.

  "Thank the Lord that Sondheim lived to be 91 years old so he had the time
to write such wonderful music and GREAT lyrics!" tweeted singer Barbra
Streisand.

  "Thank you for everything Mr Sondheim," tweeted Broadway actor Aaron Tveit,
who recently won the Tony for best actor. "We are so lucky to have what
you've given the world."

  Actress and singer Lea Salonga, who was the first Asian woman to win a Tony
for originating the lead role of the musical "Miss Saigon," thanked Sondheim
for his "vast contributions to musical theater."

  "We shall be singing your songs forever. Oh, my heart hurts," she wrote on
Twitter.

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