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Stephen Sondheim, the genius of musical theatre who has died aged 91, passed away hours after a celebratory Thanksgiving dinner with friends, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

‘The circumstances of his death were quite remarkable,’ a friend said, telling how the American composer behind some of Broadway’s greatest musicals dined on Thursday at a friend’s house near his Connecticut home.

‘He was frail but his usual wonderfully witty self, full of anecdotes and very lively. Things broke up at 9.30pm and he died at 1am,’ he said.

‘Sondheim essentially died for Thanksgiving surrounded by his closest friends. Right through the dinner and when the dinner ended, he was 100 per cent there. The general feeling is, what a way to go. We should all be so lucky.’

Stephen Sondheim, the genius of musical theatre who has died aged 91, passed away hours after a celebratory Thanksgiving dinner with friends, The Mail on Sunday can reveal

As tributes poured in for the composer and lyricist, London’s West End theatres announced that they would dim their lights for two minutes at 7pm tomorrow in his honour.

Sondheim received many of the glittering prizes of the theatre. Six of his musicals won Tony Awards. He received a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award and five Olivier Awards.He was also honoured with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Fellow composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber said that he had always been ‘sort of in awe‘ of a man he described as ‘an absolute genius’ and a ‘titan’ of musical theatre.

Sondheim announced his talent at 27 by writing lyrics for Leonard Bernstein’s music in West Side Story – with treasures such as Somewhere (There’s a Place For Us) – and, two years later, Gypsy. He revolutionised musical theatre with hits such as Sweeney Todd, Assassins and Into The Woods.

More recently, he had been supportive of Steven Spielberg’s screen adaptation of West Side Story, out next month, and Terry Gilliam’s upcoming revival of Into The Woods. The Monty Python star last night told the MoS: ‘He was fearless and funny, full of sparkle and dry charm and his passing is a great loss especially for our production, as we shall never know if we succeeded in surprising him.’

Stephen Sondheim recording with Elizabeth Taylor in 1976. As tributes poured in for the composer and lyricist, London’s West End theatres announced that they would dim their lights for two minutes at 7pm tomorrow in his honour

Some of the biggest stars lined up to work with Sondheim despite his complex melodies and intricate lyrics in classics such as Send In The Clowns from A Little Night Music.

Dame Sheila Hancock, who starred as Mrs Lovett in the original 1980 London production of Sweeney Todd, said: ‘It was a terrifying joy to work with Sondheim.

‘Terrifying because of his all-consuming dedication and my desperate desire to keep up with his genius. Joyful because of his gentle understanding when I couldn’t.’

Dame Maureen Lipman, who played Madame Armfeldt in an acclaimed 2008 production of A Little Night Music, contrasted the composer’s belief in the power of love with his personal heartbreak.

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Sondheim is known to have detested his mother who psychologically abused him from an early age, blaming him for her divorce from his father.

Dame Maureen said: ‘He who had known so little love in his early life taught us so much about its enduring power.’

The playwright Sir Tom Stoppard described Sondheim as ‘one of the immortals of what some people think of America’s greatest contribution to culture – the theatre musical’.

He is seen getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom from then President Obama in 2015. Sondheim received many of the glittering prizes of the theatre. Six of his musicals won Tony Awards. He received a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award and five Olivier Awards

News Source: dailymail.co.uk

Tags: topics index stephen sondheim presidential medal of freedom london’s west end london’s west stephen west side story because into the woods production

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Ask Amy: This friend acts like he doesnt know why Im mad at him

Dear Amy: When my husband died, one of his friends started calling me.

Amy Dickinson 

I got a small amount of life insurance, and within six months he asked to borrow some money. I had him sign a note.

He paid monthly until I sold my house and moved to a smaller place. Then he stopped paying and answering my calls.

I wrote off the debt to my new life’s “tuition.”

He called me recently. He said he had to know why I was mad at him.

I said I was hurt that he used me as an ATM, and that he could repair things by repaying me, but not to call me again.

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The problem is he still calls. I blocked him on Facebook, email and my phone.

We share some friends, and they say they have “given” him money. Most of them are still friends with him.

I still get messages from him, as my friends tell him my new cell number.

What do I do? I don’t want to lose my social circle.

 The ATM

Dear ATM: You won’t lose your social circle, if you remove this man from being at the center of it.

Your friends have a right to assume the risk of having a friendship with him.

Block his number on your new phone. Don’t comment when others discuss him. He is no longer your problem.

Dear Amy: I’m asking a question on behalf of my friend, “Brad,” who is in a sticky situation.

Brad’s dad had surgery several weeks ago and is doing well now. He stayed with Brad while he recuperated for nearly two months — all through the holidays.

The dad has his own home nearby and is a widower.

He has settled into Brad’s home with absolutely no regard for other family members. Brad’s daughter recently packed her bags and moved out because there is no more privacy at the home.

Brad and I actually took the dad to a medical appointment and then took him to his house to see what shape it was in.

The home is organized, cozy and his own — but he is refusing to leave Brad’s house.

He has no concept of privacy. He took over the entire first floor living room, kitchen, guest bathroom, den, and dining room.

Brad can’t enjoy his own home anymore, and his dad won’t budge!

Do you have any ideas on how to politely and tactfully ask Dad to return to his own home?

Is there a way I can mediate this situation to take some of the burden of Brad?

Supportive Friend

Dear Supportive: Brad’s father might be nervous about returning to his home post-surgery, and since he seems to have settled into his son’s home so thoroughly, he has no incentive to leave.

If Brad and his dad’s physician are certain his father has recovered and is safe living on his own, Brad could set a quick deadline for his father to return to his own house. This should be conveyed in a neutral, no-nonsense, friendly and firm fashion: “Dad, it’s time to get you back home so we can all get back into our routines. I’m going to take you back on Friday, so let’s start getting you packed up.”

If his father balks, Brad could suggest that he needs to “give it a try,” and Brad could stay overnight with him there to make sure he can get reacclimated. The son should offer lots of reassurance.

Brad (and you) should help him to get moved in and settled and should prepare a meal and eat with him.

Brad should make sure his father has access to nutritious and easy-to-prepare food.

His father might also benefit from a “life alert”-type system, which can offer a safety net for those living alone, and peace of mind for their loved ones.

Dear Amy: “Wondering” had a friend whose father died on the friend’s birthday.

My mother passed away on my 10th birthday. The day has been bittersweet for the 52 years since.

I would suggest that wishing me a happy day while qualifying it as the anniversary of my mother’s death is truly unkind.

If you want to talk to me face to face about the mix of my birthday and loss of my mother, there may be a time to do that, but in a card — no, thank you.

Stephanie

Dear Stephanie: This was a very recent loss for “Wondering’s” friend, and thank you for offering your perspective.

Bittersweet, indeed. This sounds very tough.

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You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.

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