David Cotton’s hooked on Hairspray – the musical. The actor is playing the lead role of Link Larkin at the King’s Wharf Theatre in Penetanguishene.

From the moment he saw the show in Toronto, he’s wanted to play Link. Even though he wasn’t an actor then, he knew he could do it. Seven years ago, Drayton Entertainment cast him in the role opposite Stephanie Pitsiladis as Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with a big heart and a passion to dance. Both are returning to the stage in the same roles this summer.

“It’s kind of crazy – hopefully I’ve aged well,” said Cotton. “It’s really fun to play same character and come at it from a more mature angle (and) appreciate what a unique and amazing story it is – so relevant.”

He describes his character as caught up in the popular Corney Collins television show.

“Tracy is this amazing character who really forces him to become strong and fight for what’s right. Integration at that time was huge for black and whites and still is now.”

The story is set in 1962 Baltimore. The character of Tracy changes too, from social outcast to teen celebrity after she wins a spot on the show and then sets about integrating the dance competition.

The feel-good musical has played Broadway, toured across Canada and was made into a movie. It won eight Tony Awards, including best musical. Several cast members were in the movie, the Mirvish production and the touring shows.

Cotton’s wife is also in the show. Sarah Vance is the dance captain and plays half of one of the couples on the TV show. They married 3-1/2 years ago and currently live in Kitchener.

Cotton was born into a family with an interest in the arts. His mother was a music teacher, who taught for 35 years with the Peel board before retiring. His father was a chartered accountant with an interest in community theatre. Both parents were involved in Etobicoke Musical Productions. His father was executive producer for many years and his mother performed in a lot of the shows. Cotton marked his first role in the company, while in Grade 11, when he played the youngest brother in the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

“It started to hit me then but I never thought I could do it as a career,” he said. “I was into anything hands-on: art, sports. At that time I was huge into sports: baseball, hockey, volleyball, (played) competitively and I was a young guy singing at that time. No one knew I did that.”

Of his three siblings, Cotton was the only one to make it a profession. He went to Sheridan College for music theatre and right after he graduated, landed the lead in the Drayton Entertainment production, High School Musical. He’s been in many shows since and just wrapped up West Side Story, where he starred as Tony at two other Drayton theatres.

Hairspray unfolds at the King’s Wharf Theatre in Penetanguishene from Aug. 9 to Sept. 1. For tickets, visit kingswharftheatre.com or call 705-549-5555.

Photo: Stephanie Pitsiladis stars as Tracy Turnblad and David Cotton stars as Link Larkin in Hairspray, at the King’s Wharf Theatre in Penetanguishene Aug. 9 to Sept. 1. Liisa Steinwedel photo

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