The outpouring after the sudden death of Stephen Sondheim the day after Thanksgiving has been overwhelming — in innumerable encomiums (e.g. “an artistic genius on the level of Shakespeare“) in piano bars across the city, on the Broadway stage, in Central Park and Times Square, where hundreds gathered, including fellow musical theater composers and the casts of Broadway shows, to sing “Sunday” from Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park With George,” and Lin-Manuel Miranda read from “Look, I Made a Hat,” Sondheim’s annotated collection of his lyrics, full of anecdotes and insights. The trauma and tributes exploded on Twitter.
It’s impossible to sum up Stephen Sondheim, although that’s been the impulse. The composer and lyricist, a force in musical theater for 65 years, deserves a Sondheim Theater Festival, much like the many Shakespeare theater festivals, that will present each of his musicals one by one (in a summer season or year-round) until they’ve all been produced — and then begin again.
Among those who expressed their sorrow were Bernadette Peters, who performed in five of his musicals on Broadway, including the original casts of “Sunday in the Park with George” and “Into the Woods”:
CBS aired a playful interview that Patti LuPone had last year with Stephen Sondheim on the eve of what was going to be the latest Broadway revival of “Company,” a production that the pandemic delayed until now; it opens December 9th. We learn that his favorite character was Madam Rose from “Gypsy.”
It includes an old interview in which he says:
“An awfully lot of people have gone, historically, to musicals to forget their troubles: ‘Come On Get Happy.’ I’m not interested in that. I’m not interested in making people unhappy, but I’m not interested in not looking at life”
LuPone ended the interview tearfully thanking him “for all of us.”