The Sharks and the Jets are coming to town Friday as Paducah Tilghman High School premieres a production of "West Side Story" for its fall musical.

Three performances are planned at the PTHS auditorium: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are available online at www.showtix4u.com and at the door of each showing. Reserved seating is $15, general admission is $10 and all students can get in for $5.

As for why the school went with the iconic Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim musical, the reasoning is two-fold. The creative committee chose it because of the talent pool that would be auditioning and the cultural moment the United States is in.

"Knowing our students and the talent pool that we had, we knew this was the year to tackle something that was dancing-heavy," said Emily Parker, the PTHS drama and German teacher directing the production. "They love and appreciate difficult, complex music like the compositions found in 'West Side Story.'

"You could argue that the musical is about a lot of things, belonging, young love, but really the heart of the tale comes from this black stain of prejudice and how it has an oppositional relationship to love," Parker continued. "That's still being reflected in modern headlines."

The tale of Tony and Maria will be told with a straightforward interpretation that fans of the movie and musical will instantly recognize. Language that may be offensive to some has been left in the script, as it has been deemed necessary to the story.

With the help of choreographer Ashlee Brotherton, the cast will be tackling the original Jerome Robbins dances from the original production.

With demanding dance numbers on the agenda in addition to the actual singing, some cast members were not only doing vocal runs, but literal runs, as well, to get in tip-top shape. Parker couldn't be happier with the students' dedication and effort to their craft.

"I could not in any way be prouder of this cast," she said. "They've have exceeded all my expectations and take so much initiative and responsibility upon themselves to do everything they can to make it better. They are so ready and they will blow away audiences that come to see them."

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