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Music maestro Stephen Sondheim died after a celebratory Thanksgiving dinner with friends 


Music maestro Stephen Sondheim died after a celebratory Thanksgiving dinner with friends

  • American composer behind some of Broadway’s greatest musicals dies aged 91 
  • Stephen Sondheim dined on Thursday at friend’s house near Connecticut home
  • A friend says: ‘The general feeling is, what a way to go. We should all be so lucky’


Stephen Sondheim, the genius of musical theatre who has died aged 91, passed away hours after a celebratory Thanksgiving dinner with friends, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

‘The circumstances of his death were quite remarkable,’ a friend said, telling how the American composer behind some of Broadway’s greatest musicals dined on Thursday at a friend’s house near his Connecticut home.

‘He was frail but his usual wonderfully witty self, full of anecdotes and very lively. Things broke up at 9.30pm and he died at 1am,’ he said.

‘Sondheim essentially died for Thanksgiving surrounded by his closest friends. Right through the dinner and when the dinner ended, he was 100 per cent there. The general feeling is, what a way to go. We should all be so lucky.’

Stephen Sondheim, the genius of musical theatre who has died aged 91, passed away hours after a celebratory Thanksgiving dinner with friends, The Mail on Sunday can reveal

As tributes poured in for the composer and lyricist, London’s West End theatres announced that they would dim their lights for two minutes at 7pm tomorrow in his honour.

Sondheim received many of the glittering prizes of the theatre. Six of his musicals won Tony Awards. He received a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award and five Olivier Awards.He was also honoured with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Fellow composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber said that he had always been ‘sort of in awe‘ of a man he described as ‘an absolute genius’ and a ‘titan’ of musical theatre.

Sondheim announced his talent at 27 by writing lyrics for Leonard Bernstein’s music in West Side Story – with treasures such as Somewhere (There’s a Place For Us) – and, two years later, Gypsy. He revolutionised musical theatre with hits such as Sweeney Todd, Assassins and Into The Woods.

More recently, he had been supportive of Steven Spielberg’s screen adaptation of West Side Story, out next month, and Terry Gilliam’s upcoming revival of Into The Woods. The Monty Python star last night told the MoS: ‘He was fearless and funny, full of sparkle and dry charm and his passing is a great loss especially for our production, as we shall never know if we succeeded in surprising him.’

Stephen Sondheim recording with Elizabeth Taylor in 1976. As tributes poured in for the composer and lyricist, London’s West End theatres announced that they would dim their lights for two minutes at 7pm tomorrow in his honour

Stephen Sondheim recording with Elizabeth Taylor in 1976. As tributes poured in for the composer and lyricist, London’s West End theatres announced that they would dim their lights for two minutes at 7pm tomorrow in his honour

Some of the biggest stars lined up to work with Sondheim despite his complex melodies and intricate lyrics in classics such as Send In The Clowns from A Little Night Music.

Dame Sheila Hancock, who starred as Mrs Lovett in the original 1980 London production of Sweeney Todd, said: ‘It was a terrifying joy to work with Sondheim.

‘Terrifying because of his all-consuming dedication and my desperate desire to keep up with his genius. Joyful because of his gentle understanding when I couldn’t.’

Dame Maureen Lipman, who played Madame Armfeldt in an acclaimed 2008 production of A Little Night Music, contrasted the composer’s belief in the power of love with his personal heartbreak.

Sondheim is known to have detested his mother who psychologically abused him from an early age, blaming him for her divorce from his father.

Dame Maureen said: ‘He who had known so little love in his early life taught us so much about its enduring power.’

The playwright Sir Tom Stoppard described Sondheim as ‘one of the immortals of what some people think of America’s greatest contribution to culture – the theatre musical’.

He is seen getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom from then President Obama in 2015. Sondheim received many of the glittering prizes of the theatre. Six of his musicals won Tony Awards. He received a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award and five Olivier Awards

He is seen getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom from then President Obama in 2015. Sondheim received many of the glittering prizes of the theatre. Six of his musicals won Tony Awards. He received a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award and five Olivier Awards

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