There have been a good number of "Shrek" productions over the past several months, with companies finding fresh and vibrant new ways to stage the musical adapted from the DreamWorks movies. At its heart, the show is a spoof of fairy taleS, handsome princes, beautiful princesses and, well, ogres, who, truthfully, seem to have been badly underrepresented in contemporary musical theater.

Now Pleasanton's Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre is presenting its version of the show. It's a well-cast, hugely funny, splashy production, filled with gag upon gag. It's also occasionally heart-rending. But the laughs are what will likely please you, regardless of whether it's your first or 12th viewing of the David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori musical.

In fact, being one of those closer to the 12th than the first viewing, I can say the more you see this seemingly fluffy musical fairy-tale sendup, the more you appreciate how clever it is.

There is some meat behind the froth, making "Shrek" one of only a handful of contemporary musicals that will still draw fans a decade or so from now. It is both heartwarming and genuinely funny, and the sly parodies of musicals from the past will delight theatergoers.

It's Lindsay-Abaire's careful writing that gives the show its depth. The award-winning playwright has packed the script like a suitcase full of souvenirs after a long vacation. No matter how many times you see the show, you find something new.


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Couple this with a slightly wacky cast, as Tri-Valley Rep has done, and you get a truly terrific and entertaining evening of theater. The cast, from the largest to smallest character (like the Gingerbread Man, an animated cookie on a baking sheet) presents a wildly funny group of characters. It seems just about everybody gets at least one comic turn.

"Shrek" is about a tiny but evil lord, Farquaad (delightfully played as zany, evil and hilarious by Chris Olson, who performs on his knees, with small, plastic doll legs dangling from his dark trousers), who has ejected a village of fairy-tale characters from their homes, forcing them to occupy parts of the swamp occupied by Shrek the ogre (the large, looming and funny Dane Lentz). Shrek, preferring to be alone, sets off to give the lord an angry talking-to.

Along the way, he meets Donkey (Aaron Porchia) a streetwise, cynical sidekick, who seems to know everything. Porchia, although clad in a full donkey suit, does an excellent job both creating his character and expressing emotion in his hilarious role.

Then there's Princess Fiona (played at different ages by Juliana Morrow, Claire Shepard and Catherine Williamson), who has been held captive since childhood in a tower and ordered to marry Farquaad so that he can become a king. Williamson, who plays the adult Fiona, handles the role well, both vocally and comically, particularly after the princess is freed by Shrek and Donkey.

Shrek, of course, develops a crush on the princess and realizes Fiona is not only becoming fond of him but is a ... .

That's enough of that side of the story. Suffice it to say there is romance and silliness galore. Director Carol Hovey has worked hard to give this production its own stamp, since the musical has appeared on other local stages recently (the set, designed by the hugely talented Kelly Tighe, and costumes are from a Diablo Theatre Company production). She has succeeded, even while retaining the humor and charm of Lindsay-Abaire's source material. The show is a delight, even if you have seen it already.

'SHREK THE MUSICAL'

By David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori, presented by Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre

Through: Aug. 3
Where: Bankhead Theater, 2400 First St., Livermore
Running time: 2 hours,
30 minutes
Tickets: $28-$38,
925-373-6800,
www.mylvpac.com