"West Side Story" is more than a tale of star-crossed lovers for Dustin Delaune.

"It's a story about acceptance for who you are," he said. "It may have been written in the early 1960s, but its theme of acceptance is highly relevant today."

Delaune is directing Ascension Community Theatre's production of the Leonard Bernstein musical. The show, which opens April 25, often is compared to William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," where a young man and young woman from warring families fall in love.

In "West Side Story," the families are street gangs known as the Jets, mostly white kids, and the Sharks, who are Puerto Rican.

The story takes place in the 1950s in New York's Upper West Side. A young girl named Maria, played by Jenna Cornett, has just arrived in New York from Puerto Rico for an arranged marriage. But her life changes when she attends a neighborhood dance.

The boys in Maria's family and neighborhood are members of the Shark gang, whose tensions rise when they see members of the rival Jets at the dance. And in the midst of its all, Maria sees a young man across the dance floor looking at her.

His name is Tony, played by Tristian Sholar. He's a Jet, but that doesn't stop him from asking Maria to dance.

It's love at first sight, and this doesn't sit well with either gang.

"There's so much going on in and around this love story," Delaune said. "There's the two gangs, but there are also the people who migrated from Puerto Rico to New York. They're of a different ethnicity, but they're trying to be accepted for who they are."

The story also highlights people who are trying to establish their identities.

"There's even a girl in the story who wants to be identified as a boy," Delaune said.

The girl is called Anybody's, and she tries to imitate how the Jets dress because she wants to be accepted into the gang.

Then there's the love story, carrying a heavy theme of acceptance.

"These two people are from different worlds, and they fall in love," Delaune said. "They accept each other for who they are, so why can't everyone else?" 


'West Side Story'

Ascension Community Theatre's spring production

WHEN: April 25-28, May 2-5, May 9-12. Performances at 7 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.  

WHERE: Ascension Community Theatre, 823 N. Felicity Ave., Gonzales

TICKETS/INFO: $20-$30, (225) 647-1230, actgonzales.org


Follow Robin Miller on Twitter, @rmillerbr.