BONUS: Sondheim & Judaism (with Michael & Ida Rae Cahana)!


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Today we welcome two very special guests: Cantor Ida Rae and Rabbi Michael Cahana of Portland’s Congregation Beth Israel! We're chatting about Sondheim’s Jewish heritage – and the subversive power of ritual & theatre in Jewish contexts.

We talk about:

  • Jewishness in the music of Leonard Bernstein & Stephen Sondheim
  • West Side Story as an immigrant show exploring the tension between alienation and assimilation
  • "Outsider" narratives in Sondheim’s stories as a reflection of both his Judaism and his homosexuality
  • The "problem of the ending" – and the phenomenon of unresolved musical, dramatic, and theological conclusions
  • Purim, the tradition of the Purim Spiel, and the subversive nature of Purim
  • How we pass down our stories to our children

*Read Gabrielle Hoyt’s article "Kaddish for Steve" at

You’ll hear:

  • The Prologue and Quintet ("Tonight") from West Side Story (2022 film soundtrack)
  • The documentary Original Cast Album (You can find it on YouTube!)
  • The Finale ("Children Will Listen") from Into The Woods (Original Broadway Cast recording)
  • "I Remember" from Evening Primrose (Sung by Bernadette Peters on the 2016 Album The Essential Sondheim)
  • The cast of Congregation Beth Israel’s 2016 production of West Side Spiel. Watch the whole Spiel on CBI’s YouTube page:

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