Sam Wiseman plays Mercutio, Phillip Herrington is Romeo, and Joseph Cannon portrays Tybalt in Theater Works’ first production of the 2011-12 season, “Romeo & Juliet.”

Submitted photo

“West Side Story,” Disney’s “High School Musical” and even the “Twilight” series tell stories of star-crossed lovers struggling to be together in spite of feuds between their friends and family.

All of these movies took their cue from the classic William Shakespeare play “Romeo & Juliet,” which opens Friday at Theater Works in the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts.

Robyn Allen, Theaters Works artistic director, said the spin-offs of the Shakespeare drama over the years are identifiable with people.

“There are so many themes and a very broad spectrum to this story, from the violence to the family polarization that causes the ultimate downfall of the whole situation,” said Allen, who directs the play to kick off Theater Works’ 2011-2012 season.

Allen said she felt it was time to take “Romeo & Juliet” off the shelf and put it on the stage.

“It’s probably the first full-scale production of Shakespeare that we’ve had in the West Valley in a very long time,” she said.

“Romeo & Juliet” centers on two young lovers whose fates ultimately unite their feuding families.

Joseph Benesh, a spokesman for Theater Works, said the story also could pertain to politics and other organizations.

“You see this happen with more than just families, and that’s why ‘Romeo & Juliet’ is such an epic tale that’s so well beloved by all,” Benesh said.

For years, the Shakespeare tragedy has been performed by local and professional theaters, as well as studied in high school classes.

In addition, the play has been adapted into a number of films, most notably Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, which modernized the classic and replaced swords with guns.

There also have been a number of operas based on “Romeo & Juliet.” But a number of modern-day movies, including “High School Musical” and “West Side Story” have used similar plots.

“It’s relatable on so many levels that I’m not surprised that so many adaptations have come from the play,” Allen said.

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