HARLINGEN — “When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way, from your first cigarette, to your last dyin’ day …”

What’s that? A Jet?

It’s not Bennie and the Jets. It’s the Sharks and the Jets, two teenage gangs who will have at each other tonight at the Harlingen Community Theatre.

The theater’s production of the iconic musical “West Side Story” is basically the story of Romeo and Juliet with a more contemporary twist.

“It’s set in 1950s New York with Tony being from the Jets gang,” said Randi Lappin, who is directing the musical.

The Jets are white and the children of immigrants. The Sharks are Puerto Rican.

“That’s who Maria comes from,” Lappin said. “So we have this socio-economic tension going on.”

“Romeo and Juliet” involves two warring families that become the two warring gangs in “West Side Story.” Trouble arises when Tony, a Jet, falls in love with Maria, who is associated with the Sharks. Tensions arise and lead to tragic consequences.

The cast is excited about the show.

“I am loving it, honestly,” said Alyssa Leston, 18, who plays Maria.

“It has been an amazing experience being a part of this whole show in general,” she said.

Maria presents a complex character.

“She has this whole range of emotions,” Alyssa said. “You want to portray the emotions in a way the audience can feel it.”

This is the first time Joel Hansen, 15, has played a main role.

“It has been a new experience,” said Joel, who plays Tony.

“I’ve had a lot of fun being part of this.”

Preparing for the show has required long hours of practice.

“There’s a large amount of time you have to put into it, so much more than normal,” Joel said.

Lappin has enjoyed working with the kids.

“The kids are freaking awesome,” she said. “They are so much fun. They have really embraced their individual characters and have developed those characters and they are all very different people on stage.”

She commended them for learning some difficult dance moves. The music of the show will be performed by a live orchestra.

If You Go

WHAT: West Side Story

WHERE: Harlingen Community Theatre 1209 Fair Park Blvd.

WHEN: Today and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday at 3 p.m.

July 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m.

July 22 at 3 p.m.

ADMISSION: Adults $20 Children under 18: $10 For more information about tickets: //www.