We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.
But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)
Theater fans are predictably upset. Some say a revival without these iconic songs isn't even a true revival. (Though, to be fair, aren't all the songs in West Side Story iconic?) Some worry what it indicates about the other liberties van Hove and his team will take with the material. (They'll also be using video projections, according to Vogue.) Others have noted that "I Feel Pretty" is one of few women-driven songs in the show, and the only time Maria sings without Tony. (Women are also missing from the majority of the advertising for the show.)
But the most overwhelming response has been less about the songs and more about who will be singing them: Why cut two beloved songs, many are asking, and not Amar Ramasar?
Ramasar, the New York City Ballet principal who will be playing Bernardo, was implicated in the NYCB texting scandal last year. He was fired by the company, then reinstated in an arbitration case. While NYCB had no choice but to take Ramasar back, there are many talented performers West Side Story could have hired to play Bernardo who haven't been involved in sexual harassment scandals.
Even Rachel Zegler, who will play Maria in Steven Spielberg's upcoming West Side Story film, hinted that she has bigger issues with the show than cutting a few songs:
@GraceDelsohn @BroadwayWorld @WestSideStoryUS there are worse discrepancies to have with this production beyond wha… https://t.co/1QdYlNWwBV— rachel zegler (@rachel zegler) 1573402264.0
It's odd that it took this news for Ramasar's hiring to receive widespread public attention—we'll see how it develops as the show's opening approaches.