If you?ve ever fallen head over heels in love, you?ll understand why Maria bursts into the song, I Feel Pretty, or why Tony sings her name over and over again in his gooey ballad Maria. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of West Side Story, local theatre troupe Baz & Maz Productions ? the folks behind Pippin and Broadway Idol ? are staging the classic musical this week at the open amphitheatre in Lan Kwai Fong. West Side Story is about the ill-fated love between blue-eyed Tony and olive-skinned Maria, who come from warring street gangs in 1950s New York City. After locking eyes at a high school dance, the two fall helplessly in love, but their future is thwarted by multiple tensions: racism (Tony is Caucasian, Maria is Puerto Rican), class discrimination, generational conflict and family duty. If this all sounds familiar, it?s because West Side Story is a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare?s tale is retold through flashy 50s dresses, sexy Puerto Rican accents, street violence and highenergy dance numbers. ?This is one of the most sophisticated and difficult musicals to perform,? says director Arvin Robles, who recently directed Little Shop of Horrors and The Full Monty. ?You?ve got everything in this show ? operatic voices, jazz, ballet.? Bringing this story to life is a cast ranging from 14 to 50-somethings who were selected last November. Rachel Zweig, a 16-year-old Chinese International School student, plays Maria while Ben Flax, a former cabaret actor from San Francisco, plays Tony. It doesn?t require much imagination to believe you are actually witnessing this dark romance unfold on the streets of the Big Apple. Staged in the outdoor area in Lok Hing Lane ? think old high-rises, stairs eroded by pollution, and graffitilaced walls ? Hong Kong?s own gritty streets serve as the perfect backdrop. Unlike a traditional stage, the amphitheatre doesn?t have a curtain, meaning the actors and stage crew are visible to the audience at all times. ?The openness of this type of performance adds to the gritty and raw emotions that make this musical one of the most touching of all time,? says Robles. ?We?ll see how two cultures try to settle their differences through violence, but in the end the only thing that resolves it all is love.? West Side Story is showing February 25-29. Tickets are available from Cafe O. Visit www.bazandmaz.com for details.