At 7pm this evening, 29 November, West End theatres across London went dark to commemorate the death of Stephen Sondheim, the musicals composer who died on Friday aged 91.
Tributes have been paid to the composer from the West End, Broadway and beyond, for his body of work across an extraordinary career, and for the life of a man who represented the best of theatre.
News of the West End going dark was announced on Saturday. Julian Bird, Chief Executive of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, said in a statement: “The theatre world is a smaller place tonight after the passing of Stephen Sondheim. His legacy of extraordinary shows and songs will live on for many generations to come – but now, we pay tribute to his outstanding contribution to our theatres and celebrate his talent.”
A book of condolence has been set up at the Sondheim Theatre by Cameron Mackintosh, to allow West End casts and members of the public to pay their respects to Sondheim. Flowers and other tributes are being placed outside of the Sondheim Theatre, where Les Miserables is currently playing.
His musicals have fundamentally shaped perceptions of what the modern musical can be, with his work includes Company in 1970, Follies in 1971, A Little Night Music in 1973, Pacific Overtures in 1976, Sweeney Todd in 1979, Merrily We Roll Along in 1981, Sunday in the Park With George in 1984 and Into the Woods in 1987, Assassins in 1990 and Passion in 1994. He also wrote the lyrics for musicals West Side Story and Gypsy.
Yesterday, Broadway commemorated Sondheim with a street concert in Times Square, led by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Casts of Broadway shows and members of the Broadway community came together on the red steps of Duffy Square to pay tribute. They sang works from Sondheim including “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George.
The list of talent who read, spoke and sang at the event included Lin-Manuel Miranda, Stephen Schwartz, Laura Benanti, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Reeve Carney, Eva Noblezada, Marc Shaiman, Lauren Patten, Josh Groban, Erich Bergen, Lonny Price, Jim Walton, Tom Kitt, Kathryn Gallagher, Abby Mueller, Judy Kuhn, Brandon Uranowitz, Adam Chanler-Berat, Tavi Gevinson, Erin Davie and more.
In other Sondheim news, Gypsy, the 1959 musical that featured lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, music by Jule Styne, and a book by Arthur Laurents, is currently playing on Netflix in the UK. Starring Imelda Staunton. Gypsy: Live from the Savoy is the 2015 production that also starred Lara Pulver and Peter Davison and is well worth a watch.
The new big-screen movie remake of West Side Story directed by Steven Spielberg is released in the UK on 10 December 2021. With lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, music by Leonard Bernstein and a book by Arthur Laurents, the original musical debuted in 1957, and was turned into an Oscar winning movie (it won 10 awards!) in 1961, co-directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, and starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer.
The new movie adaption features a screenplay by Tony Kushner (Angels in America), direction by Steven Spielberg, and stars Ansel Elgort as Tony, Rachel Zegler as Maria, Ariana DeBose as Anita, David Alvarez as Bernardo, Corey Stoll as Police Lieutenant Schrank, Brian d’Arcy James as Police Sergeant Krupke, Mike Faist as Riff, Curtiss Cook as Abe, and original cast memberRita Moreno as Valentina.