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There’s no better way to kick off spring than by watching that modernized, musical version of Romeo and Juliet’s romance, "West Side Story."

Bensonhurst’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Youth Theatre Company presents "West Side Story" March 8, 9, 15 and 16 at 8 pm and March 10 and March 17 at 3 pm in the school’s auditorium at 1518 73rd St. at 15th Avenue.

Directed by Joseph Appel, who is also a teacher at Xaverian High School, the production is the culmination of three years of work. "I enjoy working with kids - I have no patience for the adult acting world," Appel said, adding that these kids audition to be in the company and want to be there.

"It’s a really difficult score and it takes a lot of money," he said, referring to the professional musicians who are hired to join with the "talented teenagers" in his orchestra to perform Leonard Bernstein’s music. "We’re putting everything we’ve got into it."

The theater group, founded five years ago by Appel, 24, is comprised of kids ages 12 to 18, who act, play music, choreograph and take part in the crew. To date, the company has staged 15 shows.

"Every show is bigger and better than the one before," said Appel. "Right now, we have a solid 80 kids as members. Since we restrict the age some kids have gone on to college - studying drama at NYU."

The stars of "West Side Story" are Frank Dogali as Tony and Dana Catanzaro as Maria (pictured), who lead a cast of 33 young actors including Dana Emily Liatsis as Anita with Miguel Sierra as Bernardo, four understudies and 10 crewmembers.

"What’s most special about this group is it’s of total adult quality - not your average high school performance," said Appel. "It’s by kids and for kids - it’s always been a kid thing - but the most appealing feature of the group is when people stop me after a show and say, ’They’re better than adults.’ That means a lot to me."

Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and children. To make reservations, or to inquire about rehearsals for the youth theatre company’s September production, call (718) 232-6920.

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Reader Feedback from bensonhurst says:
I am interested in my son joining as a member of the youth theatre program at OLG please send me some info on how to join
March 6, 2008, 2:15 pm

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