Death of Stephen Sondheim: West Side Story, Sweeney Todd … 7 films adapted from the musicals of the Broadway master

Died last Friday at the age of 91, considered one of the greatest composers of American popular music, Stephen Sondheim has left an indelible mark on the music scene. Here are 7 of his works adapted to cinema.

Legend of the musical, formed by the great master Oscar Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim passed away this Friday at the age of 91.

Composer and lyricist of West Side Story, this Broadway giant was crowned in his career by no less than 8 Tony awards, 8 Grammy Awards, an Oscar for Best Song in 1991 for Dick Tracy. And even a Pulitzer Prize, in 1985.

In 2015, Barack Obama, then President of the United States, awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor. “To put it simply, Stephen has reinvented the American musical. His music is so beautiful, his lyrics so precise that even when he exposes the imperfections of everyday life he transcends them.” had declared the former president, when he presented this prestigious decoration.

As comedian – singer Barbra Streisand salutes this icon of the song by posting a photo of the two of them on its account Twitter, and that Hugh Jackman expresses his gratitude to the lyricist “for everything he gave her”, it is the occasion to sweep away precisely the adaptations of its works of Broadway with the cinema.

West Side Story (1961)

Carlotta Movies

West Side Story, the famous musical tragedy inspired by Romeo & Juliet, premiered on September 26, 1957 at the Winter Garden Theater on Broadway. Stephen Sondheim was hired at the age of 25 to write the lyrics, propelling him into the limelight. The fabulous 1961 film by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins will take over the libretto, and was crowned with ten Oscars.

Gypsy Venus of Broadway (1962)

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Mervyn LeRoy Productions Inc.

American musical created on Broadway in May 1959, performed over 700 times and for which Stephen Sondheim wrote the songs, Gypsy unfolds her plot in the late 1920s as the Great Depression begins. Rose would like to make Louise and June, her two young children, stars of the music hall. Growing up, the children tire of their mother’s big plans and June runs away with a young man she just married. Rose therefore defers all her ambitions to Louise, who ends up becoming a star under the name of ‘Gypsy Rose Lee’. In 1962, Mervyn LeRoy took on the film adaptation, starring Natalie Wood.

The Mad Forum (1967)

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Quadrangle Films SA

Premiered on Broadway in 1962, Le Forum en folie is a two-act musical featuring the story of Pseudolus. Lazy and facetious slave, he multiplies the schemes to evade the slightest task, to the great despair of his masters, Senex and Domina. The latter’s son, Hero, once confides in him his secret love for Phylia, the new resident of neighbor Lycus, a notorious pimp. Pseudolus offers to help her conquer the heart of the beauty in exchange for her freedom … resulting in scenes mixing misunderstanding and confusion of identity. Stephen Sondheim wrote the libretto for the musical, 15 songs long. It was adapted for cinema in 1967 by Richard Lester. Among other curiosities, this film is the very last that Buster Keaton shot, before his death on February 1, 1966, at the age of 70.

A Little Night Music (1977)

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Elliott Kastner Productions

Adapted in 1977 by Harold Prince from a screenplay by Hugh Wheeler, A Little Night Music was a musical by Stephen Sondheim premiered at the Shubert Theater on Broadway in 1973. This show, performed 601 times between 1973-1974, comprises two acts and no less than 18 songs composed by Sondheim. Among them, the fabulous Send in the Clowns, sung by the character Desirée Armfeldt (played by Elizabeth Taylor in the film) has become a classic. Immediately covered by Frank Sinatra, Cleo Laine, Bobby Short then by George Shearing, Jean Simmons and Shirley Bassey, it was re-recorded by Glynis Johns in 1975 and received the Grammy Award for song of the year.

Sweeney Todd, the Evil Barber of Fleet Street (2008)

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Warner Bros.

Before being a jewel of gothic and macabre aesthetic chiseled by Tim Burton and superbly embodied by Johnny Depp, the bleeding story of barber Sweeney Todd was a musical created by Stephen Sondheim, on a booklet of Hugh wheeler inspired by the eponymous play by Christopher Bond, premiered at the Uris Theater on Broadway on March 1, 1979. Until its stop in June 1980, the musical will be performed nearly 560 times. Sondheim will also be rewarded with a Tony Award for Best Original Score.

Into The Woods, Let’s Walk In The Woods (2015)

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Disney Enterprises, Inc. – All Rights Reserved

Musical reinterpretation of classic fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Into The Woods, orchestrated by Rob Marshall, is basically a musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. The premiere took place in San Diego, at the Old Globe Theater, on December 4, 1986, and debuted on Broadway in November 1987. Into the Woods has won multiple Tony Awards, including Best Original Score, Best Libretto, and Best Actress in a Musical. For the record, it was Sondheim himself who advised Rob Marshall to adapt his work into a film, ten years before the release ofInto The Woods in 2015. An advice that was not refused for the filmmaker, all the more flattering as Marshall has a great admiration for the lyricist / composer.

West Side Story, version 2021 …

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Walt Disney Germany

50 years after its first adaptation, the musical tragedy West Side Story has been adapted again, this time by Steven Spielberg. A huge challenge and maximum pressure: we are talking about passing after one of the greatest films of American cinema, crowned with ten Oscars. The magic of the songs of Steven Sondheim, it seems intact. “Tonight, tonight, the world is glowing in the dark …”

The bonus wink in “Tick, Tick … Boom!”

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Available since November 19 on Netflix, the film Tick, Tick … Boom !, worn by Andrew Garfield, tells the story of an aspiring composer. In a tasty way, his character is found at one point in the film opposite Stephen Sondheim! Or rather the one who actually embodies it, namely Bradley Whitford.

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Death of Stephen Sondheim: West Side Story, Sweeney Todd … 7 films adapted from the musicals of the Broadway master