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Barbra Streisand, Lea Salonga, world’s theater icons honor Stephen Sondheim

/ 06:50 PM November 28, 2021
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Barbra Streisand, Stephen Sondheim and Lea Salonga. Image: AFP/Jon Kopaloff, AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth, Instagram/@msleasalonga

Acclaimed thespians, as well as international film and music celebrities and politicians, paid tribute to Broadway giant Stephen Sondheim on Twitter after his passing on Friday, Nov. 26.

Sondheim was at his home in Connecticut celebrating Thanksgiving with his friends a day before he died, said his lawyer and friend F. Richard Pappas, the The New York Times reported, also on Nov. 26. Sondheim was 91 years old.

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Leading the outpouring of tributes is Barbara Streisand, who sang several Sondheim songs in her Grammy-winning “The Broadway Album” (1985). She expressed gratitude for Sondheim’s nine decades of life because it gave him the time to write “wonderful music and great lyrics.”

“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,” she said on her page, Nov. 27.

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Broadway and Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman also paid tribute to Sondheim on his page on the day of Sondheim’s death, and referred to the composer as “someone who fundamentally shifts an entire art form.”

“Every so often someone comes along that fundamentally shifts an entire art form. Stephen Sondheim was one of those. 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,” he said.

Filipino Broadway actress and “The Voice” judge Lea Salonga also thanked Sondheim for his impact and contributions to musical theater. She added that his songs will be sung forever.

“Rest In Peace, Stephen Sondheim, and thank you for your vast contributions to musical theater. We shall be singing your songs forever. Oh, my heart hurts…”

Spanish actor Antonio Banderas, who is performing in Sondheim’s “Company” musical in Spain, talked about how he was singing one of Sondheim’s works the night he learned about his passing. He grieved the late icon in both Spanish and English.

“Just about [one hour] ago I was singing ‘Being Alive,’ the final musical number of #COMPANY in our production here in Spain. Now I am at home, still with [rest] of makeup on my face crying the death of our maestro. One of the huge legends of musical theatre. A giant. May he RIP #Sondheim”

Banderas also shared yesterday a photo of his cast mates in “COMPANY.”

Actress Anna Kendrick also poured out her love for Sondheim on Twitter, saying that performing his work has been a privilege in her career.

“I was just talking to someone a few nights ago about how much fun (and fucking difficult) it is to sing Stephen Sondheim. Performing his work has been among the greatest privileges of my career. A devastating loss,” said Kendrick, who played Cinderella in the movie adaptation of Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.”

Hamilton playwright and lead star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who Sondheim mentored in the later stage of Sondheim’s career, compared his mentor to Shakespeare. Miranda said that while some people may doubt the validity of Shakespeare’s works, Sondheim was “real.”

“Future historians: 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,” said the Emmy-winning composer on Twitter yesterday, Nov. 27.

He then shared an email from Sondheim that was in reply to Miranda discussing Sondheim’s kindness to the “generations of writers” he mentored.

“[And] last week, when I wrote [to] him to say his ears must be burning from the countless Sondheim kindnesses being shared from the generations of writers he mentored, he wrote this in reply. Steve: you repaid your debt to Oscar 1000 times over. We love you. I love you. THANK YOU. -LMM”

Sondheim’s email wrote “Thanks for the nice boost to my spirits, Lin. It’s an aspect of my life [that] I’m proud of. I feel as if I’ve repaid (partially, at least) what I owe Oscar.”

Sondheim was referring to his own mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II, whom he acknowledged for teaching him to write for himself, in an interview on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” last Sept. 16.

Singer and theater actress Vanessa Williams, who played the Witch in “Into the Woods” for its 2002 Broadway revival, linked an Instagram tribute to Sondheim through her Twitter, also on Nov. 26.

Williams shared a picture of herself with Sondheim and reminisced on the late lyricist’s 80th birthday where he burst into tears.

“The above photo was when our SOS ensemble sang Happy Birthday to an 80 year old Sondheim and then surprised him with a @roundaboutnyc theater dedicated to his name…and then he burst into tears!”

She then said that it was a privilege to have been around Sondheim many times in her life. Williams also recalled her Broadway roles that would not have been possible without him.

“What a privilege to have soaked up the incredible aura of legendary Stephen Sondheim in person many times in my life. First, playing the Witch on Broadway in the 2002 ‘Into the Woods,’ then singing at the Sondheim Hollywood Bowl tribute in 2005 and then again performing in the show stopping production of ‘Sondheim on Sondheim’ on Broadway in 2010.”

Williams closed her tribute by reflecting on her time as a musical theater major in Syracuse University. She said she studied Sondheim in class and never dreamed that she would one day get to know him.

“I was so lucky, blessed and honored to have Mr. Stephen Sondheim see me, hear me and always remember my name. Rest in Musical Peace in Heaven because your music and talent will always live on 🎶 #stephensondheim”

British musical theater icon Elaine Paige, famous for playing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” on stage, also felt lucky to have worked on Sondheim’s shows, she said on her Twitter tribute also yesterday.

“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.”

Idina Menzel of “Wicked” and “Rent” kept her tribute short but sentimental.

“Goodbye dear sir. We will spend our lives trying to make you proud. #stephensondheim”

Fellow composer Alan Menken, famous for scoring Disney classics such as “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast,” said yesterday on Twitter that he felt a “void” now that Sondheim has gone.

“There is such a void, knowing we now suddenly live in a world without Stephen Sondheim in it. And yet, he will always be with us in his brilliant and peerless music and lyrics; a legacy for the ages,” he stated on his Twitter yesterday.

The tributes were not limited to those of the legendary composer’s theater peers, proving his impact in music, and art in general.

Rock legend Paul McCartney also paid tribute to Sondheim yesterday through a Twitter thread.

“Very sad to hear of the passing of the great Stephen Sondheim. I was fortunate to meet him and chat about songwriting. He was a witty intelligent man. ‘Send in the Clowns’ is one of my favorite songs. So well crafted and beautiful with it. ½”

Politician Hillary Clinton also took to Twitter yesterday to pay tribute to Sondheim. She said that his work reminds everyone that “no one is alone.”

“A peerless composer and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim stirred our souls, broadened our imaginations, and reminded us that no one is alone,” she said.

Clinton then reflected on the impact Sondheim has had not only to musical theater but also to American culture, and to close, citing a line from the Sondheim song,”The Ladies Who Lunch” from “Company.”

“He changed the theatre—and our culture—with his craft, his humor, and his heart. Everybody rise!”

Sondheim won a Tony Award in 1963 for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” his first show both as composer and lyricist.  He wrote other classics such as “Company,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Into the Woods,” “Gypsy,” “Assassins” and “Passion.” He is also a recipient of several Grammy awards, a Pulitzer Prize, an Oscar, a Laurence Olivier award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Sondheim wrote the lyrics for the 1957 stage musical “West Side Story,” which has been adapted for the big screen by director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner, and due for release in movie theaters this December. JB

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TAGS: Barbra Streisand, Hillary Clinton, Hugh Jackman, Lea Salonga, Stephen Sondheim
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