I was going to report that Ivo Van Hove’s dreadful, panned version of “West Side Story” doesn’t appear to be coming back.
Announced as an open end run, when the controversial staging opened on February 20, 2020 — after 77 previews — the New York Times’s negative review carried a closing notice for June 2, 2020. There is no other indication anywhere that producer Scott Rudin and his financier, Barry Diller, were closing the show that soon.
But now with Rudin’s temporary but indefinite exile from producing, and Broadway revving up for the fall and winter, “West Side Story” with its video visuals and ugly dancing has gone AWOL. Its star, Isaac Cole Powell, has become a Calvin Klein underwear model.
A rep for the show insists it will return, however, details to come. I don’t know why. Ben Brantley, in one of his final reviews for The New York Times, rightly panned it. I saw the new version at an early preview and was disappointed to see the Jerome Robbins dancing ruined, famous songs removed, and a massive video wall that replaced actual human interaction.
Adding incentive to getting rid of this “West Side Story” is that Steven Spielberg’s new movie version is coming in December. It looks exciting from the first teaser, and much closer to the traditional than van Hove’s bastardization.
And a big question looms over a return of this production: will the show bring back actor Amar Ramasar, who plays Bernardo? When Broadway went on pause, there were nightly protests in front of the theater against Ramasar, who was fired in 2018 by the New York City ballet over sharing nude images of female dancers online. The heat on the show was not one of “all publicity is good publicity.” There were pickets out front of the theater.* *See below
I’ve no doubt Disney would prefer not to have the Broadway show return to interfere with its marketing. And since Spielberg is tight with Diller and David Geffen, Rudin’s other partner on this, my guess is the van Hove show is about to become the lost city of Atlantis.
Rudin managed to push the opening to February 20, 2020, which conveniently made his version ineligible for 2020 Tony Awards. With new shows coming, it would be best to let this “West Side Story” slip through the cracks and be forgotten. Plus, it can never win a Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. “Company,” also waiting in the wings since last year, is ready to snatch that statue up.
*Ramasar’s publicist adds:
Amar was originally dismissed by New York City Ballet as the allegations arose, but later won in arbitration in April of 2019, and is still a principal dancer at the company. He was never fired.
Also, the lawsuit, which was dismissed, did not state that Amar shared any nude photos online. There were actually no images shared online at all by any of the parties involved in the lawsuit. Amar admitted to sharing a photo of his girlfriend, Alexa Maxwell, which was taken consensually, directly to Chase Finlay via text message. He did not share any images of any other women with anyone else, nor was that stated in the lawsuit.