Like all little boys, Caleb Parry had a dream when he was a child.
"It's always been my goal and dream to be an entrepreneur in the theater business," he said.
That dream is about to reach its fruition as he and his wife, Morgan Lael Brady Parry, premiere their first show -- the uproarious musical comedy "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" -- at their new Ziegfeld Theater in Ogden.
As a youngster, Caleb began acting onstage at a local theater. Both he and Morgan pursued their love of theater into adulthood and earned degrees in musical theater from Weber State University. More than eight years ago, Caleb formed his own improvisational company in Ogden, Off The Wall Comedy Improv.
This new theater is the next step as Caleb, 26, fulfills his dream with Morgan, 29, by his side. The Ogden couple and a group of devoted theater pals have been hard at work the past several months renovating the old Country Club Theater in South Ogden.
"It was really dingy in there and we have done a lot of work," Morgan Parry said.
The theater features a proscenium-style stage and will seat 250. Originally built in the 1940s as a movie theater, the building has served as a venue for a number of organizations -- it was even a church at one time, according to Caleb Parry.
The Parrys say they're grateful for the amount of time their friends have volunteered to get the space up and running.
"We've had a team of people who are absolutely amazing and have come to help out at the Zig," Morgan Parry said.
As WSU graduates, the Parrys are aware of the level of talent that comes out of the university's theater program. They are hoping to draw on that talent, as well as other performers along the Wasatch Front, to cast shows and build a following of patrons for the new theater.
The Parrys are planning to stage a variety of works -- including popular "classic" pieces -- but are also hoping to produce some "meatier" shows such as the multi-Tony Award-winning rock musical "Next to Normal." The acclaimed musical is about a family's struggle with loss, heartache and mental illness. It won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2010 and made its Utah premiere last year at Pioneer Memorial Theatre in Salt Lake City.
"We want to provide the community with a lot of different options," Morgan Parry said.
The Parrys point out that Ogden is a diverse community, and they want to tap into that diversity by offering theater that appeals to a wide range of tastes. However, Caleb Parry noted they are not just trying to be edgy for the sake of being edgy.
"We're not out to prove a point, we're out to do good theater," he said.
The tentative lineup of shows for the new theater over the next year includes "Guys and Dolls," "The Woman in Black," "The Last Five Years," "White Christmas," "She Loves Me," "Seussical," "Next to Normal" and "The Music Man."
"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is directed by Weber State University musical theater student Rick Rea of Ogden. Angela Jeffries of Salt Lake City is starring as Christine Colgate, with Cameron Kapetanov of South Ogden as Lawrence Jameson and Aaron Cole of Ogden as Freddy Benson. The cast of 16 also includes Ogdenites Jennifer Hughes as Muriel Eubanks, and Ryan Paskins as Andre Thibault.
Jeffries, who has WSU ties as well, is a familiar face for theatergoers along the Wasatch Front. She has had leading roles at WSU, as well as the Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley City, where she also starred in the same role in that theater's production of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."
Based on the 1988 comedy starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, the musical version made its Broadway debut in 2005. It earned 11 Tony nominations and 10 Drama Desk nominations.
The show is set in a small town in southern France and follows the story of two scammers. One of the con men, Lawrence Jameson, scams wealthy women out of their money. The other, Sgt. Freddy "Buzz" Benson, cons women by conjuring up stories about his sick grandmother.
When their competing scams become too much for the small town, the two agree to a winner-takes-all challenge: The first person to successfully steal $50,000 from a young heiress gets to stay in town. The other has to leave.
Level of commitment
The show is a colorful, comical romp through the French Riviera where the story unfolds, and the Ziegfeld stage is currently being transformed to bring the glitzy story to life. Many die-hard theater aficionados will likely recognize the level of devotion, involvement -- and some would argue insanity -- it takes to not only open a new theater, but to stage a full production as well.
Early Tuesday morning, Rea demonstrated that level of commitment when he updated his Facebook status:
"I've been through tech runs, and all nighters building the set ... and I'm here," Rea wrote on his wall during a 6 a.m. break. "Fixing the sound cues, with no time to whine or regret ... and I'm here. I got through fourteen-foot palm trees, Beto's, and five hour energies, climbing two levels of scaffolding, shaking with fear. Three-point-five Dave Matthews albums, and I'm here."
Rea was working with the Parrys and a few other friends when he posted on Facebook. They hope many more friends will soon be joining them at the Ziegfeld as Ogden's newest theatrical venture spreads its wings.
Visit www.TheZiegfeldTheater.com for more information about upcoming productions, programs and events at the theater.