THE FANTASTICKS, Provo Theatre Company, through April 24 (379-0600 or www.provotheatrecompany.com). Running time: 2 hours (one intermission).

PROVO — When a play or musical has that right bend of sweetness, humor and poignancy, it's wonderful. And when the cast of the show is just right, it can be downright magical. The Provo Theatre Company's new production of "The Fantasticks" takes the great source material and effortlessly casts that magic spell this musical can produce when done just right.

The storyline of the "Fantasticks" is fairly simple. Two neighboring fathers, Hucklebee (Chris Brower) and Bellomy (Dane Allred), want their respective children Matt (Josh Campbell) and Luisa (Jenny Latimer) to fall in love. They hatch a plan to create a phony feud, which of course will only serve to inflame the passions between the two.

With the help of the traveling player El Gallo (Neal Johnson) and his small band of actors, Matt and Luisa do indeed fall for each other, but then are forced to learn important lessons about life and the realities of meaningful love.

Even with all of the grand productions that have come and gone on Broadway over the years, the simple off-Broadway production of "The Fantasticks" outran them all, only recently closing in New York, and it's easy to see why it lasted so long.

The charm of the play lies in its simplicity, sweetness and almost dreamlike quality. It's the kind of show where the moon can be captured and hung, and it feels as if that's the way it has always been.

Scenery barely exists, and it doesn't need to. The poetic opening song "Try to Remember" sets the stage better than any extensive scenery ever could. Add in terrifically performed memorable melodies and vivid characters, and it's easy to enjoy every minute of "The Fantasticks."

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The songs are all beautifully sung with Johnson as El Gallo a stand-out, with a truly spectacular voice that is perfectly suited for his songs. As Matt and Luisa, Latimer and Campbell do a wonderful job of finding the right amount of puppy-love sweetness without pouring on the sap too heavily. The fine job they do showing the growth of their characters makes the emotional payoff at the end all the more touching.

The rest of the cast also shines. Allred and Brower are a great pair, singing and even tangoing together. Christopher Clark as the actor Henry is hilarious, and he has an intensity that could almost be scary if he wasn't so funny. Husband and wife Devin and Wendy Assay are also great as Mortimer and the Mute, respectively.

Whether you're seeing "The Fantasticks" for the first or 15th time, the Provo Theatre Company's production of this classic is well worth catching.


E-mail: p_thunell@hotmail.com

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