“West Side Story” doubled down on its employment of cast member Amar Ramasar as the musical continues to face protests outside the theater and backlash against his casting.
The backlash comes after Ramasar, who plays Bernardo in the musical, has been accused of sharing explicit images of female ballet dancers without their permission during his time as a principal dancer with New York City Ballet. In response, protesters have been gathering outside the Broadway Theatre on a weekly basis, demanding that Ramasar be removed from the cast.
The production, which is led by producers Scott Rudin, Barry Diller and David Geffin, released a statement Thursday afternoon saying that Ramasar will continue in the role for the entirety of his production contract.
“There is zero consideration being given to his potentially being terminated from this workplace, as there has been no transgression of any kind, ever, in this workplace,” the statement reads.
“The ‘West Side Story’ [c]ompany’s relationship to Mr. Ramasar is completely private to that company and exists solely between Mr. Ramasar and his fellow company members. He is a valued colleague who was hired to play a principal role in this production, which he is doing brilliantly, and which he will continue to do for the entire unabated length of his agreement.”
In the statement, which was sent out unprompted to press Thursday, the production also stated that “the alleged incident took place in a different workplace — the New York City Ballet — which has no affiliation of any kind with West Side Story,” and that the issue had been settled there.
The incident in question was brought forward by ballet dancer Alexandra Waterbury in September 2018. She filed suit against her former boyfriend, Chase Finlay, who she alleges sent nude photos of her to other dancers, including Ramasar, who was a principal dancer with New York City Ballet at the time. Ramasar has been named in the suit for allegedly receiving photos of Waterbury and sending nude photos of other women.
Ramasar, as well as another dancer, Zachary Catazaro, were fired from the ballet that September. However, Ramasar, and Catazaro were ordered reinstated to the New York City Ballet in April 2019, after a union arbitrator handed down a ruling.
In response to Thursday’s statement, Waterbury wrote in a message to Broadway News that though Ramasar is at a different organization, the production still holds responsibility for hiring him, given his prior alleged actions.
“He needs to be held accountable…continuing to perform isn’t accountability. It’s saying I don’t matter and victims everywhere don’t matter,” Waterbury wrote.
The civil suit is ongoing in New York Supreme Court. All defendants have filed motions to dismiss.
A protest was held outside Thursday night, marking the fourth consecutive week of protests outside the Broadway Theatre. “West Side Story” began previews on Dec. 10, 2019 and has an opening night planned for Feb. 20.
The group of protesters, originally organized by New York high schoolers and growing to include other performers as well as Waterbury herself, vowed to be louder and larger in number in response to the statement. They also have plans to protest opening night.
An online petition demanding Ramasar’s removal from the production has gained more than 25,000 signatures.