COLLEGEVILLE -- GREAT Theatre's new production, Mr. Popper's Penguins, is ready to hit the stage tonight (Friday) at St. John's University.

The show is based on the 1938 book -- not the Jim Carrey movie -- and it tells the story of a modest painter who finds himself caring for a family of penguins. As the bills pile up, Mr. Popper decides to take his gang of penguins out to perform on the road.

Director Jeff Anderson says the show is not only a first for GREAT Theatre, it's also the first time it will be performed in the United States.

"It's been done a couple times in Canada, so this is going to be the national debut," Anderson says. "It's really fun to take a story that nobody has expectations for and bring it to life."

Anderson says the cast of 30 actors varies in both age and stage experience, making for an enjoyable challenge for the director.

"We have 13 people who have never done a show," Anderson says. "It can be challenging, but it's very rewarding to see where they started and where they finish, there's a lot of growth."

The family-friendly show features singing, tap dancing, comedy, and some valuable lessons.

"You see in Mr. Popper that you should never give up on your dreams," Anderson says. "No matter how old you get or what happens in your life, you should always strive to do what you want to do and keep your passion alive."

The show will run the next two weekends at the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater in Collegeville.

Photo by Isaac Schweer, WJON