100 Heroes: Stephen Sondheim

The gay man who became one of the biggest names in musical theatre.

100 Heroes: Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim was a composer and lyricist.

One of the most important figures in 20th-century musical theatre, Sondheim is credited for having reinvented the American musical – brining a new level of depth and complexity to the genre.


Sondheim’s interest in musical theatre began at a young age, and he was mentored by Oscar Hammerstein II. He began his career by writing the lyrics for West Side Story (1957) and Gypsy (1959). He transitioned to writing both music and lyrics for the theatre, with his best-known works including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979), Merrily We Roll Along (1981), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), and Into the Woods (1987).

Sondheim’s numerous awards and nominations include eight Tony Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Tony in 2008), an Academy Award, eight Grammy Awards, an Olivier Award, a Pulitzer Prize, a Kennedy Center Honor, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Personal life

Sondheim was often described as introverted and solitary.

He rarely discussed his personal life, but did occasionally publicly discuss his sexuality – he identified as a gay man.

Significant relationships included Peter Jones, and also Jeffrey Scott Romley – whom he married in 2017.

Sondheim died of cardiovascular disease inj 2021, at the age of 91.

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