Theatergoers react to naked Jessie Williams: “I was really stunned”

Before she snagged a $150 spot in the orchestra for the Broadway hit “Take Me Out” at the intimate Hayes Theater in March, the New York mother-of-three and die-hard Jesse Williams fanatic Schnell Acevedo had no idea her an eyeful of buff would become an actor in the buff.

But much to her delight, that’s exactly what she got when she saw the baseball drama, which is nominated for four Tony Awards.

“I was actually stunned. I’ve never seen anything like it on Broadway,” Acevedo, 39, told the Post of Williams’ frontal nudity in a raucous dressing room scene. “It’s a phenomenal piece and people can take a lot out of it,” she laughed.

For months, NYC theater insiders have been nervous about the bold performance of the 40-year-old Grey’s Anatomy heartthrob. Footage of the nude shower scene leaked online last Monday, turning Williams from the talk of the town into an intriguing topic that stretched far beyond the confines of Joe Allen and Sardi. The show’s production company, Second Stage Theatre, called the leak on Instagram “a gross and unacceptable breach of trust between the actor and the audience,” but some say they should be happy about a very effective free promotion. The striking images have garnered well over 503,000 views on Twitter alone, sparking renewed interest in the old ballgame-centric show.

Jesse Williams, center, during a performance of the Broadway revival of the baseball theme "take me out"
Jesse Williams (center) during a performance of the Broadway revival of baseball-themed “Take Me Out.”

“Jesse Williams is naked on Broadway??? And I just saw what he’s working with???? I need tickets,” one fan tweeted.

Brooklyn native Schneller Acevedo, a die-hard Williams fan who was pleasant "stunned" on display when she saw it in person a few weeks ago.
Die-hard Jesse Williams fanatic Swift Acevedo had no idea she would be seeing the muscular actor in the buff.
Fast Acevedo

At press time, there were only six spots left online for Friday night’s show. Those attempting to purchase tickets over the phone faced 45-minute waits and an automated recording that warned callers, “We are currently experiencing above-average call volume.”

“If there isn’t a master publicist behind it, unbelievable – coincidentally?! well-timed leak – THEN IT SHOULD BE,” a theater world insider told The Post.

Another anonymous theater lover agreed, telling The Post: “It’s going to be difficult to top that kind of publicity.”

The Second Stage Theatre, which did not respond to requests for comment, enforced a “phone-free” mandate for the show by confiscating all viewers’ cell phones, putting them in a protective case and locking them away during the 135-minute performance.

Acevedo suspected the leaker may have snuck into a second cell phone to capture the viral footage. Whoever did it seemed to have Williams’ best interests — and angles — in mind.

“[The perspective of the video] was very commendable,” said the digital content creator and founder of New York-based parenting and lifestyle brand BrooklynActiveMama, noting that she didn’t draw that much attention in person. “That was not my view.”

"take me out" with Jesse Tyler Ferguson (left) and Jesse Williams was nominated for four Tony Awards.
“Take Me Out,” starring Jesse Tyler Ferguson (left) and Jesse Williams, was nominated for four Tony Awards.

In the play, Williams portrays a gay, persecuted major league baseball player in the early 2000s. He stars alongside an all-male cast that includes Patrick J. Adams and Julian Cihi.

Acevedo said it’s a deeply satisfying show on multiple levels.

“It’s such a great piece with so many layers and insights into the LGBTQ community,” she said. “But if you really just want to see [Jesse Williams’ member in person] You should definitely see the play because you’ll probably never get a chance to see it again.”

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