Align Entertainment may be new to the Lower Mainland scene, but the theatre company has already set the bar high for itself.
The new Coquitlam-based company burst onto the scene last year with a dazzling production of Shrek the Musical - which won the hearts of fans and critics and earned the company an Ovation Award for Outstanding Community Production (large theatre).
It returns to the Michael J. Fox Theatre stage this weekend with another unique, family-friendly musical: The Addams Family.
Yes, that Addams Family - Gomez and Morticia and the gang, so familiar to generations from the original cartoons, the classic television show from the 1960s and the movies from the 1990s.
The Broadway musical has reinterpreted the family some years later. Little Wednesday is all grown up now and has fallen in love with - gasp! - a normal human boy from a normal human family. She wants to bring his family over for dinner - and therein lies the fun of the musical.
Brennan Cuff, a New Westminster actor who plays Gomez, laughs at the premise.
"It really explores what it means to be a normal family," he says, noting everyone has shared those feelings about their family at some point or other. "This musical gets to play around with all those those situations. Even though it's a comedy, even though it's a send-up, there's still a lot of truth there."
For director Chad Matchette, that's one of the things that drew him to the show in the first place.
"It's a show that has a lot of heart and at its core is about something that most of us can relate to ... being a part of a crazy family," Matchette says in a press release. "We may not all have an uncle as weird and crazy as Fester, but we've all probably felt at one time or another that our family is the craziest group of people ever."
Cuff promises that anyone who has been a fan of The Addams Family - in any of its incarnations - will love the musical.
"This is the classic Addams Family as you've come to know them," he says - the sexy Morticia, the passionate Gomez, the crazy Uncle Fester.
And he points out that one of the great things about the musical is that it can be appreciated by more than one generation of watchers - as in the case of his own family, where his parents were fans of the classic TV series and he grew up with the 1990s movies.
He admits that when a musical is billed as "family-friendly," it can worry adult watchers.
"Typically that means great for kids and kind of unfortunate for adults," he says. "That's not the case for this show."
And no, he notes, it's not scary - though the Addams Family is certainly fond of the macabre, the whole things id done on a fun, kid-friendly level.
Moreover, he says, the musical itself is a little different from the typical Broadway show, where there may be songs inserted just for the sake of singing.
"Every song moves the story along," he says. "It's not your classic musical theatre campiness. There's lots of tango, lots of elements of passion."
Cuff notes that what makes the musical extra-special is the passion that's being brought to it by the whole cast and crew.
"What's amazing about Align Entertainment is they're so new. Everyone is there because they want to be there. Everyone is there because they love being a part of theatre," he says, noting there are no "divas" in the midst. "From the person hoisting the flies to the third trombone in the orchestra, to the cast and the whole crew, everyone has to be passionate about what they do."
What makes the show unique, too, is the fact that the leads don't actually dominate the stage time.
In fact, he notes, of the 30 or so cast members, those who spend the most time onstage are the chorus of "Addams Ancestors," whom Uncle Fester brings back to help solve the family crisis. Among their ranks are three Burnaby performers - Lisa Rickets, Katie Purych and Steff Stanley.
"Our cast is a real ensemble," Cuff says.
He's high on the talent involved in the production, noting that everyone - from the production team to the cast to the crew members - brings a high level of skill and experience to the stage.
"It's just such a treat thing to have this level of professionalism in a community theatre production," he says.
And yes, Cuff says, the entire team knows they have a lot to live up to, given the success of last year's Shrek.
"They're already batting a thousand," he says, but he promises this year's show will be just as good - or even better. "We hope to raise the bar just a little bit higher."
The Addams Family runs Feb. 6 to 21 at the Michael J. Fox Theatre. It's on Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $37.50 regular, $25 for students and seniors. All tickets are $25 on Thursdays, and there's also a special Family Day event on Monday, Feb. 9, when all tickets are $15.
School matinees will also be held Feb. 13 and 19 at noon, for $15.
Check out www.alignentertainment.ca for all the details.