For over half a century, Stephen Sondheim extended the expressive possibilities of the musical theater with music and lyrics of unprecedented complexity and sophistication. He made his Broadway debut as a lyricist, writing words for Leonard Bernstein's music in West Side Story, and enjoyed his first success as a composer with the songs for A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum.
Sondheim dominated Broadway in the early 1970s, winning Tony Awards for Best Score in three consecutive years for Company, Follies and A Little Night Music. In these works, he deployed an exhaustive array of musical styles, while breaking with the musical's traditional sentimentality to explore the disillusionment of maturity. His songs, including "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music, have entered the repertoire of singers around the world.
In the later '70s and '80s, as the Broadway musical became increasingly cautious, Sondheim only become more daring. Pacific Overtures recounted the history of U.S.- Japanese relations; Sweeney Todd told a ghoulishly humorous story in a continuously sung score of operatic intensity. He shared the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama with playwright James Lapine for their musical Sunday in the Park With George. Sondheim continued to break new ground for the theater in his later works, including Into the Woods, Assassins, Passion and Bounce.