Broadway stars and fans alike gathered in Times Square on Sunday to pay their respects to Stephen Sondheim, who transformed American musical theater with his works from West Side Story and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum to Company, Sweeney Todd, and Gypsy.
Standing in Father Duffy Square and on the TKTS steps, they sang "Sunday," from Sondheim and James Lapine's Pulitzer Prize-winning Sunday in the Park with George.
Sondheim died on Friday, at age 91. He had recently seen two current revivals of his work, Assassins and Company. He even re-wrote some dialogue and recorded a voicemail for playwright and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda's film directorial debut about Rent composer Jonathan Larson, tick, tick...BOOM. Miranda was thrilled, "I'm not turning down a Sondheim rewrite!"
Miranda spoke to the crowd in Times Square, selecting an excerpt from Sondheim's memoir, Look I Made a Hat, which is a reference to Sunday in the Park, which imagines Impressionist artist Georges Seurat painting La Grande Jatte, and his obsession with his work.
He read from the book's passage about Sunday in the Park, "Once during the writing of each show, I cry at a notion, a word, a chord, a melodic idea, an accompaniment figurer... In this show, it was the word ‘forever’ in ‘Sunday.' was suddenly moved by the contemplation of what these people would have thought if they’d know they were being immortalized, and in a major way, in a great painting. i still cry when I think about it, but then I cry at Animal Planet. Often."
The lyrics to "Sunday":
Sunday,— Howard Sherman (@HESherman) November 28, 2021
by the blue purple yellow red water
On the green
purple yellow red grass.
Let us pass
Through our perfect park.
Pausing on a Sunday
By the cool
Blue triangular water
On the soft
Green elliptical grass,
As we pass
Through arrangements of shadows#Sondheim pic.twitter.com/I9EDikvGZa
Towards the verticals of trees— Howard Sherman (@HESherman) November 28, 2021
Forever . . .
By the blue purple yellow red water
On the green
Orange violet mass
Of the grass
In our perfect park
Made of flecks of light
And parasols . . .
Bumbum bum Bumbumbum
Bumbum bum . . .#Sondheim pic.twitter.com/AG9e5zoAND
"His music is what got me into music, his music is what got me into theater," singer Josh Groban told NBC New York.
Actor and singer Sara Bareilles, who wrote the music for and was the original star of Waitress, said to Variety, "This felt like church. In his remembrance, we did what theater does best. We sang and raised our voices and came together in community.”
Actor Laura Benanti, who won a Tony for her role in the 2007 revival of Gypsy, which Sondheim wrote the lyrics for, said to NY1, “This one really hurts. But the good news is, I look around at all these other theaters. None of these shows would exist if it weren’t for him.”
She continued, “I don’t think a single composer living today could say they haven’t been influenced by him,” she added. “And his music will live forever.”
The Times Square Alliance, The Broadway League, and Playbill organized the event, which was produced by Erich Bergen and conducted by Michael Moritz Jr.
There was another "Sunday" tribute to Sondheim in Central Park: