The “West Side Story” Story — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #114

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Did it make sense for Steven Spielberg to re-record one of our nation’s most beloved musicals (with music by Bernstein and Sondheim!), In an attempt to correct the parts that are not aging well politically? Is the new version a modern classic or a doomed Frankenstein?

Your host Mark Linsenmayer will be joined by Broadway researcher, theater critic and actor Ron Fassler; Re-recordings, reboots and revivals co-hosted by Nicole Pometti; and Broadway actor and longtime PEL friend BIll Youmans.

Ron admires us with facts about the original musical from 1957 and the acclaimed film version from 1961. We consider the choices for the new film in filming, choreography, casting, and how the script was completely rewritten by playwright Tony Kushner with lots of consultations with the Puerto Rican community to ensure that the representational errors in the older versions were corrected. And why is it not going so well at the box office, and what does it mean?

We also touch on other recent film musicals, including In the Heights and Cats, and think in general terms about how genres and tropics that were popular in the past are doing today.

Some of the articles we considered during the preparation of this episode included:

This episode includes a bonus discussion that you can access by supporting the podcast at or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life Podcast Network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.


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