Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Stephen Sondheim

Update: Mr. Sondheim died suddenly on November 26, 2021,
at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut.
He was 91 years old.



Photo: Fred R. Conrad/NY Times

Original post from 2012 - I have not changed the verbs from present to past tense:

On September 15, 2010, eighty-year-old Stephen Sondheim, one of the greatest theater composers of our time, joined other legendary theatre artists who have had Broadway theatres named after them – Ethel Barrymore, David Belasco, Edwin Booth, George Broadhurst, George Gershwin, Alfred Lunt & Lynn Fontanne, Richard Rodgers, Helen Hayes, Eugene O'Neill, Neil Simon and August Wilson.

Sondheim (born March 22, 1930) gave a speech during the unveiling ceremony of the new marquee on the former Henry Miller’s Theatre at 124 W. 43rd Street. The signage on the marquee is Sondheim’s signature. The  restored neo-Georgian brick façade, which dates back to 1918, fronts an entirely new 1,055 seat theatre placed below street level. The restoration retained the “Henry Miller’s Theatre” letters, still visible etched in stone high above the Stephen Sondheim marquee



It should not be lost on my readers that Stephen Sondheim is a homosexual Broadway artist. Sondheim did not come out as a gay man until he was 40 and did not live with a partner (dramatist Peter Jones) until he was 61. Update: In 2017 Sondheim married Broadway singer/actor Jeffrey Romley, who survives him. Romley (b. 1980) is 50 years younger than Sondheim.

Sondheim wrote the lyrics for the landmark musical West Side Story (1957) in collaboration with bisexual Leonard Bernstein’s music and gay Arthur Laurents’s book. Laurents, born in 1918 (the same year as Bernstein), died on May, 2011. Sondheim, the baby of that creative team, was just 25 years old when he was hired to work on West Side Story. He followed with another smash hit with his lyrics for Gypsy in 1959.

Sondheim helped establish what is known as the “concept” musical, which sought to tell stories in fresh ways – Company (1970), Follies (1971) and Pacific Overtures (1976), for example. He changed the nature of musical theatre forever and has influenced subsequent generations of writers.

Sondheim is the winner of a Pulitzer Prize (Sunday in the Park with George), an Academy Award (for Sooner or Later, as performed by Madonna in the film Dick Tracy) and multiple Tony and Grammy Awards. He was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors (1993), the National Medal of Arts (1996), the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Gold Medal for Music (2006) and a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre (2008).

Sondheim (above left) with Leonard Bernstein in 1965.

Among the many shows for which Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics are Into the Woods (1987), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), Sweeney Todd (1979), A Little Night Music (1973), Anyone Can Whistle (1964) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962). Five shows are anthologies of his works: Side by Side by Sondheim (1976), Marry Me a Little (1981), You're Gonna Love Tomorrow (1983), Putting It Together (1993/99) and Sondheim on Sondheim (2010).

It is a lesser known fact that he has composed film scores, written songs for television productions and provided incidental music for stage plays.

Sondheim is currently working on a new musical, tentatively titled All Together Now, in collaboration with playwright David Ives, whose play Venus in Fur (2010) is enjoying an extended run at Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre.

In 2009 the Signature Theatre, in my home state of Virginia, established a new honor, The Sondheim Award, as “a tribute to America's most influential contemporary musical theatre composer.” The first award was presented at the Arlington, VA, theatre’s gala fund-raiser. Sondheim himself was the first recipient of the award, which includes a $5000 honorarium for the recipients' choice of a nonprofit organization. The 2010 honoree was Angela Lansbury, and in 2011 the recipient was Bernadette Peters.

Losing My Mind ("Follies" 1971) performed by Jeremy Jordan:


  1. I only like him as a composer in 'Company' and some of 'Follies'. He was a better lyricist. I couldn't stand 'Sweeney Todd' and 'Sunday in the Park with George'. 'Company', though, was really something--a real poetics of Manhattan, a moment caught perfectly as it was going on, and I had just been living it for a year--including going to the Continental Baths when I was 18, where there was Paradise at every turn then.

    1. I'm in the minority, I think, but I love "Assassins".

    2. Stunning comment. I thought Sweeney Todd was brilliant although I didn't care for the movie version with Johnny Depp who always plays Johnny Depp no matter what he's in from Willy Wonka to Tonto.

  2. Songs so beautiful. Very complex and sophisticated but catchy. He wrote perfect songs. He is for sure in the pantheon of music !

  3. Thanks for this update! Sondheim's most oddball credit would be several episodes of the early 1950s ghost sitcom "Topper."

  4. I was genuinely upset at the news of the death of such a genius of the theatre. However - what a legacy to remember him by! Jx

  5. West Side Story : a musical about two street gangs, one Irish/Polish and one Puerto Rican, written entirely by gay Jews.