Remembering Stephen Sondheim: his musical-theatre heroes

Sondheim’s music has been incorporated into films such as Bridge on the River Kwai and Shakespeare in Love as well as television programmes The West Wing and American Crime Story. He also arranged songs for the 2007 film Dreamgirls.

Despite having barely a day’s notice for the Ellington concert, it seems that Sondheim’s fellow composers cannot wait to memorialise the big-voiced stage legend.

Frances McDormand, who starred in Sondheim’s 2004 musical Summer Hours, and in that film as well as in Hollywood classic A Bigger Splash, wrote a lengthy tribute to the musical-theatre impresario which she posted on Twitter.

With characteristic self-deprecation, McDormand wrote: “I certainly didn’t kill him, and I wasn’t the only one’s favourite of him. We all knew that… I spoke to him a few times, and he was full of life, though I don’t know if he ever felt the need to do any interviews. (Honestly? He’s never done them. Which is a plus.)

“Maybe I’m joking, maybe I’m just being a horrible gossip columnist. But, whatever the reason, he seemed to me like a true gentleman, which was one of the many secrets of him as a composer. (Maybe it was even another. Don’t judge me.)”

Stephen Sondheim played Alice Drummond on the show Glee, having just returned to the cast having earlier played Finn Hudson.

Kevin McHale, who played the singer, wrote an emotional tribute on Instagram, opening: “It’s not fair. I just heard about the passing of Stephen Sondheim, and it hurts.

“So many people have given me goosebumps for the last few years. His songs will be one of the things that I will remember him for the rest of my life.

“Thank you so much Mr Sondheim. I know this may be difficult to say, but this news gives me hope. Because, Sondheim was still, I believe, literally writing songs like this. Sondheim was still making people cry out loud every time. He was still singing lyrics that had us thinking. He had us thinking and he had us laughing. He had us enchanted. He gave us hope.

“And so, in light of this, I can’t help but feel a little, a tiny bit, defiant. Maybe it’s not fair. But maybe then, too, he didn’t have to be fair… Maybe then, he was just Stephen.”

Ron Howard, who directed Sondheim’s 1997 film A Little Night Music, wrote on Twitter: “We all grieve together as lovers, fans, and family members of an extraordinary artist – one of the great American voices of our time.”

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