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Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bernadette Peters paid tribute to the late, legendary composer Stephen Sondheim at the Tony Awards Sunday.
Miranda, a mentee of Sondheim’s, referenced the composer’s frequent outreach and guidance to those in the theater community. This has been illustrated through the many detailed letters Sondheim sent to fans and collaborators, which have posthumously resurfaced on Instagram.
“Steve touched our lives in a multitude of ways through his immortal music and lyrics, through his teaching and advocacy for young writers and through letters,” Miranda said. “Stephen wrote them to friends, to up-and-coming artists, to countless people he’d never met. He wrote so many letters that you’d wonder when he had time to pick up a Blackwing 602 pencil and write a song. I stand here on behalf of generations of artists he took the time to encourage.”
These letters, as well as other Sondheim witticisms, were featured on Sunday night’s telecast, as Peters, one of the foremost interpreters of Sondheim’s songs, sang “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods.
Sondheim, who had eight Tony Awards to his name, in addition to a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award and eight Grammys, died in November of 2021 at the age of 91. He is seen as the father of modern musical theater, paving the way for Jonathan Larson’s Rent, Miranda’s Hamilton and more.
Sondheim is represented on Broadway this season by the gender-swapped update of his musical, Company (Sondheim was able to attend the first preview), which won best revival of a musical at the 2022 Tonys. While accepting the award for best direction of a musical, director Marianne Elliott praised their collaboration, calling it “a privilege I never thought to have imagined.”
“Thank you first and foremost to Stephen Sondheim for trusting me to tell his story in a different way and putting a woman front and center,” Elliott said. “He and I shared a belief that theater should be for the now.”
Later, in the press room, Elliott teased that she may soon take on another Sondheim property, once it is determined who will handle his estate. Matt Doyle, who won the Tony Award for best performance by a featured actor in a musical, told the media that Sondheim had one key note for him in the rapid-fire song “Getting Married Today“: “faster.”
Known for his clever, complicated lyrics, the composer reshaped the art form by taking on serious and unconventional topics in his musicals, such as a murderous barber in Sweeney Todd and the motivation behind presidential assassination attempts in Assassins. Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, which won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for drama, is a meditation on the difficulties of creating art, while Gypsy takes on the challenging family dynamic of a mother pushing her daughter into the stardom she desired.
Early in his career, Sondheim penned the lyrics to West Side Story. Other major works include A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, Follies, A Little Night Music and Merrily We Roll Along, which Daniel Radcliffe is set to star in off-Broadway in late 2022.
A limited-engagement production of Into the Woods is scheduled to run on Broadway this summer.
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