Stephen Sondheim: tributes pour in for 'musical theatre giant of our times'

The American composer and songwriter has died aged 91

Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. AP

Musical celebrities from both sides of the pond have paid tribute to American composer and songwriter Stephen Sondheim, a man who “fundamentally shifted an entire art form”.

A host of famous faces expressed their sadness at the “devastating” loss and said they were lucky to have worked with him.

Lyricist Sir Tim Rice described him as a “master musical man”, while Phantom of the Opera composer Andrew Lloyd Webber said he was a “musical theatre giant”.

Others paying tribute included English singer Elaine Paige, who starred in the 2011 Broadway run of Sondheim’s Follies.

She tweeted: “Devastated to hear one of the most important musical theatre giants of our generation, #StephenSondheim, has died.

“I was lucky enough to have performed in two of his shows @FolliesBroadway and Sweeney Todd, and also have a song co-written by him for my 50th Anniversary. RIP dear man.”

Lloyd Webber wrote: “Farewell Steve, the musical theatre giant of our times, an inspiration not just to two but to three generations.

“Your contribution to theatre will never be equalled.”

Rice said: “RIP Stephen Sondheim, master musical man.

“His words for West Side Story alone would have guaranteed him theatrical immortality but there was so much more.

“He bestrode songwriting like a Colossus.”

Barbra Streisand, whose The Broadway Album features 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.”

Actor Hugh Jackman, star of The Greatest Showman, said: “Every so often someone comes along that fundamentally shifts an entire art form. Stephen Sondheim was one of those.

“As millions mourn his passing I also want to express my gratitude for all he has given to me and so many more.

“Sending my love to his nearest and dearest.”

Singer and actress Anna Kendrick said: “I was just talking to someone a few nights ago about how much fun (and difficult) it is to sing Stephen Sondheim.

“Performing his work has been among the greatest privileges of my career. A devastating loss.”

Tony Award winner Idina Menzel said: “Goodbye dear sir. We will spend our lives trying to make you proud.”

Tony winner Lea Salonga, who performed in last year’s concert to mark Sondheim’s birthday, tweeted: “Rest In Peace, Stephen Sondheim, and thank you for your vast contributions to musical theatre.

“We shall be singing your songs forever. Oh, my heart hurts.”

Comedian David Baddiel paid tribute on Twitter with a link to the song Sorry-Grateful, from the musical Company, saying: “The thing about Sondheim is he raised lyrics to the same level of emotional and psychological complexity as the novel.”

Musical theatre star Carrie Hope Fletcher quoted Sondheim’s Into the Woods in her tribute: “Oh, if life were made of moments. Even now and then a bad one. But if life were only moments. Then you’d never know you had one!

“A genius, a giant, a hero. Farewell, Sondheim.”

Actress Frances Barber described him as “an icon” and said it was “really the end of an era”.

Musical theatre star Lucie Jones tweeted: “Urgh. My heart.

“Thank you Mr Sondheim. I have loved you like I could no other and will continue to.”

Updated: November 27th 2021, 6:30 AM