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Stephen Sondheim has died aged 91

The creative has been responsible for defining modern musical theatre

Sondheim
© Dan Wooller

Stephen Sondheim has died aged 91, it has been revealed.

Said to have died suddenly at his family home early on Friday, the news was confirmed by Sondheim's lawyer F Richard Pappas. The Follies, Company, Assassins and Sunday in the Park with George creator had even celebrated Thanksgiving with friends the previous day.

Sondheim has had one of the most successful careers of any creatives in the musical field, working on the lyrics for the likes of West Side Story through to crafting Tony Award-winning shows such as Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, A Little Night Music, Passion and Into the Woods.

He started his artistic life thanks to tutelage from Oscar Hammerstein II, before entering the Broadway world with his work as lyricist on West Side Story. From there the hits came thick and fast, with the likes of Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures and Sweeney Todd all crafted during the 1970s.

Into the 1980s, he won further acclaim with Merrily We Roll Along, the Pulitzer-winning Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods. While Sondheim's output waned into the 21st century, there had been plans to premiere a new musical next year – the future of the project is unconfirmed.

On these shores, he's won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical on five occasions, while also winning eight Tony Awards from 1971 through to 2008.

Cameron Mackintosh, who named a West End venue after Sondheim in late 2019, said in a statement today: "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 forevermore. Goodbye old friend and thank you from all of us."

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