Sondheim working on Tony Award-winning Best Musical, Sweeney Todd, starring Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou
Stephen Sondheim, one of the most legendary Broadway songwriters died early Friday at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut at the age of 91, according to reports.
His lawyer and friend, F. Richard Pappas, announced the death. The cause of death is unknown.
The decorated lyricist was known for composing 'West Side Story,' 'Sweeney Todd' and 'Into the Woods,' among many more.
According to Biography.com, In the early 1950s, Stephen Sondheim moved to Los Angeles, California, and wrote scripts for the television series Topper and The Last Word. Returning to New York, he composed background music for the play The Girls of Summer in 1956. An acquaintance with director Arthur Laurents brought Sondheim into contact with composer Leonard Bernstein and choreographer Jerome Robbins, who were looking for a lyricist for a contemporary musical adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Writing the song lyrics for West Side Story, which opened in 1957, Sondheim thus became part of one of Broadway's most successful productions of all time.
Sondheim's next theater project was similarly high profile: He teamed up with composer Jule Styne to write the lyrics for Gypsy, which opened in 1959 with Ethel Merman as its star. After musical contributions to 1960's Invitation to a March, Sondheim then wrote both lyrics and music for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a farce starring Zero Mostel based on comedies by ancient playwright Plautus. It opened in 1962, ran for nearly 1,000 performances and won a Tony Award for best musical.
Sondheim won several more Tony Awards in the 1970s for his collaborations with producer/director Harold Prince, including the musicals Company (1970), a meditation on contemporary marriage and commitment; Follies (1971), an homage to the Ziegfeld Follies and early Broadway; A Little Night Music (1973), a period comedy-drama that included the hit song "Send in the Clowns"; and Sweeney Todd (1979), a gory melodrama set in Victorian London destined to become a 2007 Tim Burton film.
Sondheim became known for his witty, conversational lyrics, his seamless merging of words with music and the variety of his source materials. Pacific Overtures (1976) was partially inspired by haiku poetry and Japanese Kabuki theater, and 1981's Merrily We Roll Along was adapted from a 1934 play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.
In the 1980s, Sondheim collaborated several times with playwright/director James Lapine. Their Sunday in the Park with George, which opened in 1984, was inspired by the iconic painting "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat, and 1987's Into the Woods was a collage of plots from classic fairy tales.