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'Fantasticks' a solid production

"THE FANTASTICKS," through Aug. 22, Sundance Resort (801-223-4242): running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (one intermission)

SUNDANCE — The first time I went to Sundance Resort to see a production on the outdoor stage it was "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." With sweatshirts and blankets in tow, a group of us drove up Provo Canyon, parked at the resort and hiked the short stretch up to the stage — that was … sheesh… 20 years ago … I went nearly every year after that.

This past weekend, I opted to take the open-air shuttle rather than hike (something I like to blame on anything but being older) and my friends and I, blankets in tow, set out to enjoy a lovely Utah tradition.

Sundance took a five-year hiatus from summer theater, and it was missed. Last year, in partnership with Utah Valley University, they were back with "A Midsummer Night's Dream." This year, its the musical "The Fantasticks," an off-Broadway show that ran for 42 years — making it the longest-running musical in the world.

There was something that felt so right about sitting amid the lovely limbs of Mt. Timpanogos again, breathing the crisp beginnings of (seemingly an early) fall and watching a show about the seasons of love and life.

Sundance and UVU have put together a solid production, although the relationship is unclear, as judging by the playbill, there are more people with ties to BYU than UVU.

Pianist Melissa Thorne, and harpist Karen Woudin make up the small ensemble and offer the music for the evening. Darick Pead is perfect as the tall, dark and dangerously handsome El Gallo, who also serves as the musical's narrator. His beautiful baritone voice singing "Try to Remember," the show's signature song, is a treat. And, his delivery makes the words come to life — which was the first time I've ever really paid attention to the rather lovely tune. He also has a nice stage presence and comedic timing.

But the bulk of the comedy goes to Christian Busath (Henry) and Mark Oram (Mortimer) a couple of past-their-prime actors who help stage a first-class abduction. The two were a perfect pair, playing off one another nicely, yet never pulling focus.

The young lovers, Nick Grossaint (Matt) and Kara Jones (Luisa) also do a fine job. Jones is lovely, delicate, has a beautiful singing voice, and handles the funny moments with ease. But I would have liked to see more noticeable growth from silly young girl in love, to an older, wiser woman in love.

The only student of UVU, Grossaint, has the perfect look as the hopeless idealist and had some very nice acting moments. Grossaint left the show after Saturday's performance and the role will now be played by Carson Twitchell.

Director Dave Tinney assembled a fine cast, rounded out by Marc Haddock (Hucklebee), Ricky Carter (Bellomy) and young Zack Elzey as the Mute.

As El Gallo sang, "Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow," it felt nice to sit among the pine again in that pristine surrounding. Thank you, Sundance, for bringing back a sorely missed summer tradition.

As a side note, the resort also offers a tasty barbecue complete with hamburgers, chicken or a bratwurst, cole slaw, baked beans, potato salad and a drink for those looking to spend a little more time in the mountain air.

e-mail: ehansen@desnews.com