Neil Patrick Harris bids farewell to Stephen Sondheim

Joel Gallen , CNN Written by

Stephen Sondheim was the greatest living musical theater composer of his generation. For “Mame,” “Into the Woods,” “West Side Story,” “Company,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Follies,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Assassins,” “Company,” “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Merrily We Roll Along,” “Into the Woods” and “A Little Night Music,” his plays and scores have profoundly shaped the theatrical environment of our time.

“At a moment when musical theater has been plunged into an existential crisis,” explained Yul Brynner in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, “Sondheim stands for the very heart of the art form, and for what is essential about musical theater.”

Streisand’s tribute

Streisand, who honed her talents on the stage as her career skyrocketed, has worked closely with Sondheim throughout the years, with huge personal involvement.

Her emotional reaction to the death of the composer and lyricist was one of the first:

“I’m struggling to get hold of myself and the note-in-the-air feeling I’ve had since learning the shocking news, and I’m overwhelmed with the feeling that I won’t be able to do a thing to honor this gentleman.

“Oh, is this happening?” she tweeted. “Sondheim, the storyteller, always has us with him.”

Many others paid tribute to the man who had supported them through their creative lives.

Phantom of the Opera’s Harold Prince, who directed Streisand in her first Broadway show, “Funny Girl,” reflected on the fact that he always felt artists “had the most direct connection with him.”

Emmy Rossum, who first performed in a musical on the inaugural season of “Glee,” tweeted a letter her producer wrote after she cried during a performance of “Company”: “Stephen decided to go out in the end.”

Sondheim’s wife, James Lapine, commented on his affect on the musical theater. “When a Broadway musical opens, it has nothing to do with Sondheim,” he told the New York Times. “I see a group of people in a beautiful theater singing beautiful songs, and something like “Carousel” comes in, and I am simply not conscious of the fact that Sondheim ever existed.

“…I don’t think ‘Company’ is as great as ‘Funny Girl’ or ‘West Side Story’ or any of the others, but it is pretty good and I think that’s the enduring legacy.

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