To mark Trumbull Youth Association’s 50th anniversary, TYA will present West Side Story, just as it did in the summer of 1969, when it was TYA’s first summer musical.

The late 1960s were difficult years to be a teen. Race riots, drugs, and the Vietnam War were claiming young lives. This chaotic atmosphere prompted Trumbull resident Mary Keane to launch a teen theater program that Mary Joan Wright and Merial Cornell lead today.

West Side Story is a Romeo and Juliet-themed musical. In TYA’s production, the music by Leonard Bernstein will be played by a live orchestra, and the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim will be performed by more than 75 high school and college students from Trumbull and surrounding towns.

Brett Boles directs the story of two young rival street gangs. The Jets, headed by Riff (played by Harrison Gilberti) challenge the Puerto Rican Sharks, led by Bernardo (Nigel Hayes), to a rumble for control of the neighborhood on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Musical numbers like America and Cool are highlighted by dance routines choreographed by Lisa Mennilli. Love songs like Maria, Somewhere, and Tonight draw viewers into the tragic love story between Tony (played by Colin McLevy) and Maria (played by Jackie Mate). When Anita (played by Alex Luft) sings to Maria: “Forget that boy and find another. One of your own kind. Stick to your own kind!”, she clearly knows the realities of prejudice but both realize “When love comes so strong. There is no right or wrong. Your love is your life.”

West Side Story demonstrates that life can go very wrong in an instant, if people cannot get beyond racial and ethnic tensions.

Performances are Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 8-11; Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m. matinee at Trumbull High School. There will be a special free senior citizen show at 7 p.m., on Wednesday, Aug. 7, with no tickets required.

Tickets can be purchased at the TYA website: trumbullyouth.org or showtix4u.com/event-details/34476.