Stephen Joshua Sondheim was an American composer and lyricist known for his immense contributions to musical theater for over 50 years. He was born in New York City in 1930 and in 1942 he moved to Pennsylvania with his mother. He studied piano and organ from a young age and harnessed his songwriting skills while a young student. As a teen, Sondheim met Oscar Hammerstein II and the lyricist soon became Sondheim's mentor.
After majoring in music at college, Sondheim moved back to New York City. In 1956 he met Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins and he subsequently wrote the lyrics for West Side Story, which opened in 1957. This was followed by an opportunity to write the lyrics for Gypsy, opening in 1959 with Ethel Merman in the lead role. This was the beginning of a series of theatrical hits and a hugely successful collaboration with the producer and director, Harold Prince, during the 1970s.
Throughout the course of his career, he was awarded an Academy Award, eight Tony Awards (more than any other composer) including the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the Laurence Olivier Award. Described by Frank Rich of the New York Times as "the greatest and perhaps best-known artist in the American musical theater", his most famous works include (as composer and lyricist) A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods.
In more recent years, his work has seen huge revivals on Broadway and London's West End, including a new, award-winning production of Company (2018) which re envisions the show with a female Bobby. It has also been frequently adapted for film, including Tim Burton's 2007 version of Sweeney Todd and the 2014 film of Into the Woods.
Sondheim died at the age of 91 at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut.
More about Stephen Sondheim