Remembering Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim, a titan of musical theater, died at the age of 91 on Nov. 26, 2021 in his home in Connecticut.  

The reaction of the theater community has been an outpouring of love and admiration for his work. On the Sunday following his passing, many from the broadway community gathered in Father Duffy Square in New York City to sing “Sunday” from “Sunday in the Park with George” to honor his memory. Broadway Theaters also dimmed the lights for one minute on Wednesday, Dec. 8, an honor that his mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II, also received.  

Oscar Hammerstein II wrote musicals like “The Sound of Music,” “South Pacific,” and “Oklahoma!”. They met after Sondheim befriended Hammerstein’s son. He helped him get through his parents’ divorce and gave him many helpful tips.  

His advice clearly worked when you see the success that Sondheim had. He wrote music for “Into the Woods,” “Follies,” and “Company.”  One of his first jobs was writing the lyrics for “West Side Story.” Throughout his career, he won 8 Tony awards, 8 Grammys, and received a Kennedy Center Honor and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.  

Sondheim was still working into his nineties. The remake of “West Side Story” came out on Dec. 10, where he was involved in the recording sessions. He also made a cameo in “Tick, Tick… Boom!,” a newly released Netflix film about the life of playwright Jonathan Larson. While he was portrayed in the movie by Bradley Whitford, he recorded a voiceover for the movie. A revival of his musical “Company” just opened on Broadway with Patti Lupone. He was also working on a musical called “Square One” that he had hoped to open on Broadway next season.  

While he was over 90, his death came as a shock for many. Sondheim was such a unique and innovative voice in musical theater which made everyone feel his death so much more deeply. An Instagram account has been made to help those grieving called @sondheimletters. Sondheim wrote many letters to fans and people are sharing ones they received from him.  

I know for me that his death was hard to wrap my head around. I remember watching “Into the Woods” for the first time and falling in love with the song “No One is Alone.” He has inspired so many with his intricate lyrics and unique voice. I’m so thankful to have been able to listen to his work. Thank you, Stephen Sondheim, and may his memory be a blessing.