Stephen Sondheim: Most famous musicals and songs - from Loving You to Send in the Clowns, after death aged 91

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The theatre legend, who composed musicals such as West Side Story and Gypsy, passed away on 26 November at his home

Songwriter and musical legend Stephen Sondheim has passed away at his home in Connecticut, his lawyer Richard Pappas told the New York Times.

Sondheim celebrated Thanksgiving with his family on Thursday, he died on Friday at the age of 91.

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Tributes have been flooding in for one of theatre’s “greatest geniuses”, as those from across the musical theatre world paid tribute to the highly acclaimed composer.

So, what were his most famous songs and musicals? Here, we look at some of the greatest work from theatre titan, Stephen Sondheim.

What lyrics and music did Sondheim compose?

Sondheim’s songs gained his huge popularity and accreditation, including his ballad Send in the Clowns, which has been covered by Hollywood stars such as Frank Sinatra and Judy Collins.

New York born Sondheim won many awards for his music, such as an Academy Award for the song Sooner or Later from the film Dick Tracy.

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He also wrote the lyrics for  West Side Story and Gypsy, as well as Do I Hear a Waltz?

Other work included Loving You, first performed by Donna Murphy in 1994.

 Elizabeth Taylor at a Wembley studio with Stephen Sondheim, to record the songs for the film ‘A Little Night Music’, in 1976 (Picture: Getty) Elizabeth Taylor at a Wembley studio with Stephen Sondheim, to record the songs for the film ‘A Little Night Music’, in 1976 (Picture: Getty)
Elizabeth Taylor at a Wembley studio with Stephen Sondheim, to record the songs for the film ‘A Little Night Music’, in 1976 (Picture: Getty) | Getty Images

During his illustrious career, he also won five Olivier Awards and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honour from President Barack Obama in 2015.

Six of Sondheim’s musicals won Tony Awards for best score and he received a Pulitzer Prize for Sunday in the Park.

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Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to theater composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim in 2015 (Picture: Getty)Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to theater composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim in 2015 (Picture: Getty)
Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to theater composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim in 2015 (Picture: Getty) | AFP via Getty Images

His musical talent stretched beyond writing lyrics and into composing music, such as that used in the musicals Company, Follies and Sweeney Todd, which are considered among his best work.

Other work included A Little Night Music, for which he worked alongside Elizabeth Taylor, as well as Into the Woods and Anyone Can Whistle.

How has the world of music and theatre paid tribute to him?

In the wake of his death, British theatrical producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh praised Sondheim as one of theatre’s “greatest geniuses”, adding ”the world has lost one of its greatest and most original writers”.

Sir Mackintosh named a venue after Sondheim in late 2019, the second arts venue to be named after him following the renaming of the Henry Miller Theatre to the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in 2010.

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At the time of the Henry Miller renaming, Sondheim, who admitted he was an introvert and very private, said he was “thrilled, but deeply embarrassed”.

Sondheim added that he had “always hated my last name”, insisting: “It just doesn’t sing”.

His death was described as sudden by Mr Pappas, and Sondheim had told the New York Times less than a week ago, that “Outside of my sprained ankle,” his health was “Okay.”

Steven Spielberg, who has directed the onscreen version of A West Side Story, described Sondheim as 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”.

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Spielberg added in his tribute, that he had become “good friends” with the 91 year old, and 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”.

Sondheim said of the onscreen version, that it was “just great”, and that those who are fans of the musical should expect some “surprises”.

Phantom Of The Opera creator Andrew Lloyd Webber also paid tribute, describing him as a “musical theatre giant of our times, an inspiration not just to two but to three generations”.

He said Sondheim’s contribution to theatre “will never be equalled”.

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Hollywood legend Barbra Streisand, whose The Broadway Album featured lyrics written by Sondheim, tweeted: “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.”

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