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Friday, Dec. 07, 2012

Johnson County theaters join forces for ‘Hairspray’

Special to The Star

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The Theatre in the Park’s 2013 season • “Children of Eden,” June 7-9 and 13-15, is based on the story of Genesis and is a frank, heartfelt and often humorous examination of the age-old conflict between parents and children. Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. • “9 to 5 The Musical,” June 21-23 and 27-29, is set in the 1970s and is based on the 1980 hit movie where three female co-workers, pushed to the boiling point by their boss, concoct a plan to get even. Music and lyrics by Dolly Parton. • “Peter Pan,” July 5-7 and 11-13, is a story of the boy who refuses to grow up.Music by Mark Charlap and Jule Styne. • “Damn Yankees,” July 19-21 and 25-27, is based on the novel “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant” by Douglass Wallop. Middle-aged baseball fanatic Joe Boyd trades his soul to the Devil to become a young Joe Hardy and a chance to lead his favorite team to victory in the pennant race against the YankeesMusic and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. • “Hairspray,” July 13-28 at the Jewish Community Center and Aug. 2-10 at The Theatre in the Park, is set in 1962 Baltimore where plus-size teen Tracy Turnblad has one desire — to dance on the Corny Collins Show. Music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

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For the first time, The Theatre in the Park and the Jewish Community Center are working together to bring a play to Johnson County.

Next summer, the two groups plan to present a joint production of “Hairspray.”

The play will run July 13-28 at in White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park and then will close out the season of The Theatre in the Park at Shawnee Mission Park Aug. 2-10.

Each theater will keep its own receipts, but they will save money by sharing a single cast and one set of costumes, props and sets.

“I’m excited about our collaboration with the Jewish Community Center in the production of ‘Hairspray,’ ” said Jill Geller, superintendent of recreation at the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District. “I can’t say at this time about future productions but we’ve always had an interest in area theaters and our goal is to partner with them when appropriate. This is a step toward that.”

Krista Blackwood, director of cultural arts at the Jewish Community Center, shares Geller’s view.

“I’m thrilled that we are able to collaborate with another theater company here,” Blackwood said. “I think any time that we can share resources with each other it’s a good thing. This partnership kicks off what we hope will be a longstanding collaborative relationship with The Theatre in the Park.”

The Theatre in the Park wanted to produce “Hairspray,” said producing artistic director Tim Bair, but his organization and the Jewish Community Center received the option for rights to the play at the same time. He and the center’s theater director Mark Swezey both wanted the project.

“I talked several times with Mark Swezey and we agreed it made sense, especially financially, to produce the show together and not compete against each other,” Bair said.

And cooperation gives the production more exposure.

“The cast has the opportunity to perform this fabulous show twice as long as they would have in one theater,” Bair said. “Patrons who enjoy air conditioning have White Theatre while the ‘picnic and a show in the park’ folks have a perfect place at The Theatre in the Park.”

Since he took his post in 2010, Bair has advocated having five shows a season rather than the customary four.

The Theatre in the Park’s plans to produce five shows again next year, opening with “Children of Eden” June 7. Shows will run Friday through Sunday during their first weeks and then Thursday through Saturday the next week, with Thursday night tickets 20 percent at the box office.

Attendance wasn’t as strong for Sunday performances on the second week, and the change lets the theater start working on the next production sooner.

Geller said the new five-show season works well.

“With a four-show season much of August was left open. A fifth show fits in nicely before schools open,” she said. “We want people to take advantage of our beautiful facility in Shawnee Mission Park and see a fifth show.”

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