The opening of a new theater is sort of like the running of the Kentucky Derby. In the case of the Pages Lane Theatre, whether or not the curtain really goes up as planned on Friday, Nov. 16, could remain unanswered right down to the wire.

Running neck-and-neck in this race are the construction crews and the cast of "Cheaper by the Dozen."The theater was originally scheduled to open several weeks ago. At least that was the scenario when Ralph Rodgers, Margo Beecher and Beverly Olsen first announced their plans for a year-round theater-in-the-round in Davis County.

But building codes and construction delays have a way of changing even the best of plans.

So, as of this past week, it was anticipated that the new Pages Lane Theatre would be opening next Friday with "Cheaper by the Dozen," with Ralph G. Rodgers Jr. as the stern Gilbreth patriarch.

Last Friday, we paid a visit to the site at 292 E. Pages Lane, space formerly occupied by a fabric shop just west of Dick's Market.

This "Building Crew vs. Cast" race is one that even Dan Jones and his pollsters would be reluctant to call.

But if the sheer enthusiasm of the folks behind the new endeavor is any indication, then the last seat will be bolted down, the last brush stroke of paint will be dried, the last yard of carpet will be laid and the final bits of sawdust and wiring will be swept up - probably just moments before the first patrons come trooping through the front door.

(We suggested that perhaps the opening show could've been a stage version of "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House," so that the sawhorses and paint buckets wouldn't look out of place.)

Barring further delays, what you'll find on Friday is an intimate arena-style theater with spacious, continental seating around a 24- by 24-foot stage. When the project was just getting off the ground, Rodgers and his team were scouring the countryside in search of used theater seats. They found one batch that had been in the Avalon Theater in Salt Lake City at one time, then, just a few weeks later, they acquired some 300 even newer seats from the Cineplex-Odeon Theater in the University Mall in Orem, where auditoriums inside the mall had been replaced by a new, free-standing complex.

Director Margo Beecher sees her cast as "pioneers." Not only are they pioneering a new theater in Centerville, but they've had to weather some hardships, too - rehearsing while bundled up under layers of coats because there was no heat, dodging chunks of wallboard, trying to rehearse dialogue with the sounds of saws, compressors and yelling foremen in the background.

In the process, she says, they've become not only the Gilbreth family onstage, but a "family" offstage, too.

In addition to Rodgers, the the cast includes Carol Taylor as Mrs. Gilbreth, Rhonda Paige and Catica Cole as the older and younger Ernestine; David Reay and Matt Strader as the older and younger Frank; Kim Cawley, Martha; Danny Inkley, Bill; Matt Kjar, Dan; Danny Clifford, Fred; Debbie Zeis, Mrs. Fitzgerald; Corene Heaps, Miss Brill; Ben Seelos, Larry, and Kirk Monson, Centerville, with three roles double cast - Kara Bechtel and Loralee Mitchell as Anne, Kelly Keiter and Angela Kieffer as Lillian, and Adam Strader and Colton Brown as Joe Scales.

"Cheaper by the Dozen" is scheduled to open at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16, after which it will play Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays-Saturdays through Nov. 26, and resume the last week in December (Wednesday-Saturday, Dec. 26-29) following a brief run of "Scrooge."

Performances will be 8 p.m. nightly, with Saturday matinees at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 24 and Dec. 29.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children on Friday and Saturday evenings, and $6 for adults on Mondays through Thursdays and at the Saturday matinees. For reservations, call 298-1302 or write to P.O. Box 62, Centerville, UT 84014.

("Scrooge," also featuring Rodgers, is scheduled Nov. 30-Dec. 22.)

Other shows during the theater's 1990-91 season include "The Solid Gold Cadillac," "The Curious Savage," "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Little Women."

In conjunction with the theater, Rodgers, Beecher and Olsen also operate a theater school with weekly classes in all facets of stage production.