Ivo van Hove’s West Side Story revival drew a big crowd on its opening night—of both A-listers and protesters. Amar Ramasar, who plays the Sharks leader Bernardo in the new production, faced a scandal in 2018 when he was fired from and then re-hired by the New York City Ballet after sharing sexually explicit photos of his girlfriend, Alexa Maxwell. As one protester’s sign reportedly put it, “A boy like that should not be on Broadway.”
Although the night saw its share of celebrities—including Liev Schreiber, Alec Baldwin and Vanessa Hudgens, per Variety—the trade reports that around 100 people gathered outside the Broadway Theatre to protest. Demonstrations like these have nagged at the production during the run-up to its debut. On Thursday, Variety reports, chants included “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Ramasar has got to go.” (One of the show’s producers is Barry Diller, the owner of Daily Beast’s parent company IAC.)
But the production’s management has stood firm, releasing a statement last week that insisted, “There is zero consideration being given to [Ramasar] potentially being terminated from this workplace.” Per The New York Times, management said the 2018 scandal occurred in another workplace and was “fully adjudicated.” Ramasar has met with the show’s cast to address the issue, the Times reports, and pinned a letter on the theater’s call board last week: “It breaks my heart that a terrible mistake I made two years ago has caused a situation that is distracting from the work you are all doing here with such selflessness,” the letter read. “I want you to know that my past is not my present.”
In the fall of 2018, dancer Alexandra Waterbury sued the New York City Ballet and her ex-boyfriend, Chase Finlay, alleging that the dance company was a “breeding ground” of degradation for female dancers. Finlay, she said, secretly took and shared nude photos of her with other male dancers and donors. She also alleged that two other male dancers—one of them Ramasar—had shared explicit photos of other women with Finlay. At the time, the company denied condoning misconduct and insisted it had “taken the appropriate disciplinary actions for the dancers involved.”
Ramasar’s girlfriend, Alexa Maxwell, was the subject of the photos he shared. On Wednesday Maxwell told the Times that she is “not a victim” and had chosen to publicly defend Ramasar after a protester accused him of having committed sexual assault. “It’s shocking to me that these protests are still happening,” she said.
Waterbury feels differently. Looking back on producers’ decision to stand by Ramasar last week, she told the Times, “I was furious. It was last Friday and I showed up here and just screamed the entire time.”