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Stephen Joshua Sondheim was an American composer and lyricist. Among the most important figures in 20th-century musical theater, Sondheim was praised for having "reinvented the American musical" with shows that tackled "unexpected themes that range far beyond the [genre's] traditional subjects" with "music and lyrics of unprecedented complexity and sophistication". His shows addressed "darker, more harrowing elements of the human experience" with songs often tinged with "ambivalence" about various aspects of life.