High-energy, animated dancing, larger-than-life scenery and tall hairdos are all part of the dazzling musical "Hairspray."
Its grandiose touch makes it the perfect premiere for the new CenterPoint Legacy Theatre, a state-of-the-art facility that seems itself to be larger than life in the small city of Centerville.
In previous years, actors performed at Rodgers Memorial Theatre, crafted inside an unused warehouse. The players admit it often took creativity to make the space work.
Those days are gone now that the $14.3 million, 63,000-square-foot Davis Center for the Performing Arts has opened.
Beginning Monday, "Hairspray" runs nightly at 7:30 p.m., except Sundays, through March 12. It is the first of seven Broadway-style musicals in the 2011 lineup.
Director Jim Christian, who is also director of musical theater studies at Weber State University, praised the collaborative efforts of Centerville, Bountiful and Davis County in bringing about an exciting new venue.
"It is fantastic that this has been achieved," he said.
Christian appreciates the beautiful design, the large stage with a trap door and orchestra pit, ample rehearsal spaces and extra rooms for storage. He believes it will nurture talent among community members.
During his career at WSU, he has seen several university students go on to become professional actors or directors.
"Hairspray" is a musical comedy, with Megan Cash of Centerville playing the part of Tracy Turnblad, a plump teenager in 1962 whose love of dancing leads her onto "The Corny Collins Show."
Cash earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Utah in vocal performance, and currently works as a professional opera singer and private vocal teacher. She frequently performs with Utah Opera, and has traveled as far away as Italy to take the stage.
She decided to try out for "Hairspray" because she loves dancing and singing and wanted to do something with a different pace from opera for a change. "It is a great opportunity to have some fun," she said.
The mother of three children, ages 10, 6 and 3, Cash is grateful to have a professional venue close to home.
"We are a theatrical family," she said, noting that her husband is also a performer and her 10-year-old daughter recently auditioned for "Annie," coming to CenterPoint Legacy Theatre this spring.
Tracy Turnblad is tormented by none other than the popular Amber Von Tussle, played by Taryn Russell Tolman of Centerville.
Von Tussle, accustomed to being the pampered star of the show (which, by the way, is produced by her mother), is not happy about Turnblad's presence. Von Tussle's animosity and jealousy escalate as Turnblad heads up a campaign to integrate black dancers and catches the eye of lead dancer Link Larkin.
Russell Tolman, who graduated from the University of Utah in history, said theater is a big part of her life.
At the age of 16, she "stumbled onto the theater scene" when she was cast as the lead in her high school's production of "Footloose." She already enjoyed music and cheerleading and said theater "took everything I'd ever loved and put it into one activity. It's been a passion ever since."
She started performing at the Rodgers Memorial Theatre in 2003, appearing in nine shows prior to "Hairspray."
She believes that being involved in theater builds character and confidence in young people, and she's excited about what the space will do for the community.
"It says a lot about our community that they would build this," she said.
Link Larkin, played by University of Utah psychology student Taylor Davies, is the teenage hearthrob who falls for Turnblad.
Davies, who has been acting in two or three plays each year for 13 years, said he believes the new theater represents the area's artistic and family values. The performances are appropriate for all audience members.
Davies recalled his experiences acting on the Rodgers Memorial stage, where pillars sometimes blocked the audience's view of the angled stage. "There is not a bad seat in the house," he said of the new facility.
There are 516 seats, almost twice as many as before, and the back row of the theater is only 17 feet farther back from the stage than the back row in the old setting. That is, in part, achieved with the addition of a balcony.
Sense of humor
The play is full of humorous antics, starting with jokes about Turnblad's beehive hairdo, which earns her a warning for "inappropriate hair height" at school. In between the laughs, the show has a deeper message about societal injustices, the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the need for tolerance.
As part of the slapstick humor, Turnblad's shy, hefty mother, Edna, is played by a male in drag, Salt Lake City resident Bryon Finch.
Finch has performed for years in Salt Lake City theaters and said he will be spending more time in Davis County because of CenterPoint Legacy Theatre. He acts for fun and travels to New York to put on acting workshops and seminars for students as his profession.
He loves the production of "Hairspray" for the marvelous music and timeless storyline.
"All of Davis County will benefit from the new theater," he said.