Last updated: February 19. 2013 3:13PM - 172 Views

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West Scranton High School grad Theo Lencicki is revisiting his hometown with a major role in West Side Story, but any similarity in the names is pure coincidence.

West Scranton as he knew it was far removed from the dangerous world of Sharks and Jets.

This is where I played baseball, where I went to church, where I hung out with my friends, the actor said in a telephone interview. It was a great place to grow up. It's not at all like the place where the characters live and belong to gangs.

In the classic show set for the Scranton Cultural Center this weekend, Lencicki, a member of West Scranton's class of 2004 who enjoyed every second of being there, plays Riff, a character whose teen years are not so idyllic.

Riff and his friend Tony started the Jets together, and Riff is annoyed with Tony's newfound maturity – evidenced at first by a job at the local drugstore and later by a caring relationship with a girl named Maria – because it's taking him away from his old pals.

He's straying away from the gang, and I'm trying to bring him back, said Lencicki, 26, mentioning his favorite scene involves Riff trying to talk Tony back into the Jets.

You see (Riff's) vulnerability, Lencicki said. You see the boy instead of the man who maybe grew up too fast.

West Side Story is based on Romeo and Juliet, and Riff, as Tony's best friend, has the same fate as Shakespeare's Mercutio. He's doomed.

But before he dies in a street fight, Riff does get a chance to sing about being a Jet all the way, from your first cigarette to your last dying day, as well as a warning to the rest of the gang to stay cool … real cool.

I've got two songs, and I'm dancing everything under the blue sky, Lencicki said with a laugh.

The actor agrees with people who say West Side Story is the best musical of all time.

It's a classic, iconic story, he said. When people ask what the theme is, I say ‘Love can't survive in a world of hate.'

If you go

What: ‘West Side Story'

When: 8 tonight; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: Scranton Cultural Center, 420 N. Washington Ave., Scranton

Tickets: $70, $57, $45

More info: 342-7784

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