With his death on Sunday at age 84, the success of his productions reached stratospheric levels. For one thing, his Tony- and Pulitzer-winning Sondheim Festival in Los Angeles has proven to be a gathering place for those who love and adore his music and his plays.
In January 2017, the theater just north of downtown Hollywood welcomed about 25,000 people for “Rigoletto,” the final production of its 53-year season. “Sondheim — With Love” took over the theater on Aug. 29 and sold out every seat.
The annual festival still consists of about 20 events, but they are held at two different theaters and are spread over five years, giving the audience time to acclimate to the new productions. The only things sold out last year were tickets to see the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning “Into the Woods.”
“He can’t hear us, and it’s so weird,” said Don Wildman, a former Wall Street executive who now runs Liberty Productions, an event management company that books one of the theaters. “I had a woman who wanted tickets for all three acts of ‘Into the Woods,’ and she’s only going to be there for Act II.”
Jason Graae, executive director of Largo Theatre, the company that books the theater where “Rigoletto” is being performed, said nearly half of the show’s audience are newcomers. “The lovely thing about this festival is that you get to see and hear what people think of his work,” he said. “He didn’t make films, he didn’t write books, but there are still so many people who are so passionate about his writing.”
Mr. Sondheim is also a friend of the fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, and the two published a children’s book, “Diane and Stephen Sondheim’s A Pair of Bad Shoes,” this year.
A recent article in a magazine for young people, titled “A Cowboy Cant a Cowboy,” focused on a Sondheim song about the cowboy who tries to commit suicide. What if the country had no cowboys or mules and what if the corny red-hatted cowboy tries to take his own life? That song, “And a Cowboy Can’t a Cowboy,” struck a chord with the young editor.
“I came to the conclusion that it was a great message for kids,” said Anna Eby. “It’s very hard to get kids to care about things they don’t understand and it’s even harder to get them to talk about it, but it’s also very tough for adults, but it’s important.”
Mr. Sondheim’s work and the passion he drew from audiences continued even on Sunday, when fans and friends gathered at his West Side house to mourn. In addition to a public memorial service, people gathered in a private, gathered in a private, private, private way for a private, private, private gathering at his house.
“It’s very hard to talk about him in public, and sometimes I do that,” said Orson Welles, the film director, who was in Mr. Sondheim’s company for more than half a century. “But as soon as I do, I feel like I’m in total and utter denial.”