Stephen Sondheim death: Hugh Jackman and Barbra Streisand lead tributes

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Stephen Sondheim

Sondheim worked on musicals including West Side Story, Follies and Sweeney Todd (Picture: Reuters/Fred Prouser/File Photo)

Tributes have come pouring in for acclaimed composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim following the news of his death aged 91.

On Friday, it was announced that Sondheim, who was praised for having ‘reinvented the American musical’ with his work on productions including West Side Story, Sweeney Todd and Into The Woods, had died at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut.

His lawyer and friend F Richard Pappas told the New York Times that his death was ‘sudden’, having shared a Thanksgiving dinner with friends the day before.

Stars including Hugh Jackman, Barbra Streisand, Idina Menzel, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Steven Spielberg have honoured Sondheim’s memory, with Jackman expressing how the icon ‘shifted an entire art form’.

‘Every so often someone comes along that fundamentally shifts an entire art form. Stephen Sondheim was one of those,’ the Greatest Showman star said.

‘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.’

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Hamilton creator Miranda wrote: ‘Stephen Sondheim was real. Yes, he wrote Tony & Maria AND Sweeney Todd AND Bobby AND George & Dot AND Fosca AND countless more.

‘Some may theorize Shakespeare’s works were by committee but Steve was real & he was here & he laughed SO loud at shows & we loved him.’

Spielberg, who directed the new film adaptation of West Side Story, described Sondheim as ‘one of our country’s greatest songwriters, a lyricist and composer of real genius, and a creator of some of the most glorious musical dramas ever written’ in a statement sent to ABC News.

Stating that he and Sondheim became friends recently, he added: ‘When we spoke, I couldn’t wait to listen, awestruck by the originality of his perceptions of art, politics and people – all delivered brilliantly by his mischievous wit and dazzling words.

‘I will miss him very much, but he left a body of work that has taught us, and will keep teaching us, how hard and how absolutely necessary it is to love.’

Streisand 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,’ while 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.’

Menzel said: ‘Goodbye dear sir. We will spend our lives trying to make you proud,’ while Lea Salonga, who performed the singing voices for Disney princesses Jasmine and Mulan, ttweeted: ‘Rest In Peace, Stephen Sondheim, and thank you for your vast contributions to musical theater.’

Singer Elaine Paige, who starred in the 2011 Broadway run of Sondheim’s Follies, said she was ‘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 & Sweeney Todd, & also have a song co-written by him for my 50th Anniversary. RIP dear man,’ she said.

Lyricist Sir Tim Rice emphasised the legacy that Sondheim has left, describing him as ‘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,’ he added.

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