My introduction to "Shrek" (in this case the movie version), came as an admittedly small portion of my wife and I celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.
The main events included renting a fiery red Jaguar, which was worth more than the average tract home at the time, a couple of nights in Monterey, and a visit to Cambria to visit Hearst Castle, the shrine William Randolph "Chief" Hearst built to himself.
And that was how "Shrek" happened to join us on our trip. While Cambria is a beautiful place to visit, it rolls up the sidewalks early. So, our quest for the evening's entertainment was limited to a bottle of champagne we'd brought along and the movie available to rent on the motel cable system.
That's how the ogre with a brogue became part of our anniversary celebration. We watched it while enjoying the champagne and conversation, and ended up believing "Shrek" was a pretty funny film.
Then it took a polite back row seat until the Broadway production opened in late 2008, and the first road tour began just over a year later, and reached San Francisco shortly after.
It confirmed my suspicions it was good; perhaps even better than the movie, since the book and lyrics for the stage musical were written by David Lindsay-Abaire (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the author of such diverse works as "Fuddy Meers" and "The Rabbit Hole."
And it was very good -- clever, funny, entertaining, and, more importantly, not the least bit cloying as so much "family fare" is when it is something written for kids, with a few nudge-and-wink lines tossed in for mom and dad.
You have a chance to see for yourself July 19 when "Shrek, the Musical" produced by Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre opens its run in Livermore's Bankhead Theater.
In the time it has been available to community theater groups, "Shrek" has proven itself a hot commodity, with any number of theaters throughout the Bay Area placing the musical in their production schedules.
The obvious downside with that is stiffer competition for audiences. But on the upside, for potential patrons, competition means companies will have to be on their creative edge to produce the best shows they can.
With Tri-Valley Rep, this should be an advantage, since the company has seen an enormous creative push, with a number of truly excellent shows. And, "Shrek," directed by Carol W. Hovey, plays to the company's strong suit -- it's a play with bucket loads of silliness, some over-the-top characters and numerous opportunities for shtick.
The show begins with Shrek recounting some of his own history around the fact that at 7, the ogre was told by his parents to leave the house and make his way in the world. But, they cautioned, people wouldn't like him because of his appearance, and that his life won't have a happy ending.
So Shrek settles in his swamp home, embittered, but happy in his damp wilderness. But, since nothing good lasts forever, Shrek soon finds fairytale creatures begin showing up on his land, because the tiny, stranger ruler of Duloc, orders them out because they are freaks. And, he promises them, they will be put to death if they ever return. This, by the way, isn't as grim as it sounds, since the entire show is played for parody.
The whole thing becomes a movement when Shrek decides to help out, with the twin motives of helping the creatures get their homes, but also to restore his coveted peace and quiet of the swamp. Naturally, all the characters are a bit nutty and funny, so this crusade is played for chuckles.
For those familiar with the musical, Shrek's pals, Donkey and Princess Fiona are on board for the battle, and the happy little band battles its way toward happily ever after.
At the same time, those in the audience familiar with American musical comedy will find themselves caught in something of a musical déjà vu. The show, quite cleverly, mixes a good number of sly tributes to various musical comedies; from "Once upon a Mattress" to "Wicked," just to be enjoyed by those in the know.
The TVRT production of "Shrek, The Musical" plays at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, July 19-Aug. 3 in the Bankhead Theater, 2400 First St., Livermore.
Tickets, at $38, may be reserved at 925-373-6800 or www.mylvpac.com.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: Adapted by Christina Calvit, the second and final play of Livermore Shakespeare Festival's summer season, opens Thursday, July 10 at Concannon Vineyards, 4590 Tesla Road, Livermore.
This Jane Austen story tells the tale of the Bennet family, consisting of five daughters, a disengaged father and a mother wild to see her daughters married off.
It deals mainly with daughter Elizabeth and her friend, the powerful Mr. Darcy. But it also skewers class-consciousness of the time, and considers the plight of unmarried daughters who, if not married, must fend for themselves. As a result, they must find a husband to support them, or live off the kindness of strangers.
The shows play at 7:30 p.m. July 10 - 13 and 18 - 20 in the vineyards (picnic area opens at 5:30 p.m.). Tickets, at $25-$44, may be reserved at 800-838-3006 or www.livermoreshakes.org.
Contact Pat Craig at email@example.com.