No one instilled words and music with more wit, wisdom and warmth than Stephen Sondheim.
The composer and lyricist died Friday at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut at age 91. Rick Miramontez, a publicist for the current Broadway production of Sondheim’s musical “Company,” confirmed the news to USA TODAY.
Sondheim’s death was sudden, his lawyer and friend F. Richard Pappas told the New York Times. The day before, Sondheim had celebrated Thanksgiving with a dinner with friends in Roxbury.
Sondheim was one of the most imitated and inimitable musical theater artists of his generation, a one-man bridge between Broadway’s golden age and the best of what followed. With groundbreaking musicals such as “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” “Company,” “Follies” and “Sunday in the Park with George,” Sondheim redefined the American art form without ever losing sight of the fundamentals that made it great: Compelling stories driven by unforgettable songs.
In Sondheim’s case, those songs could be daunting for the musicians who played and sang them, marked as they were by winding chromatic paths and dissonant edges that reinforced the rich, often stark drama of his shows. But while it was a running joke that Sondheim didn’t write tunes you could hum, his music was actually tonal and sumptuously melodic.
As a lyricist, Sondheim earned attention for his cleverness and erudition, but it was his emotional acuity that most astonished and lingered. A protégé of…