Two teenagers, Matt Hucklebee (Joey McIntyre) and Luisa Bellamy (Jean Louisa Kelly), live on neighboring farms, the children of fathers who bicker constantly at one another. As expected, the two fall in love with each other, but must keep their relationship under wraps so as not to offend their fathers.

Noticing the chemistry and kindness, their fathers team up to nudge their children into falling in love. With the help of a traveling circus (long story), Matt proves a hero, and Luisa and he can finally go public with their love for one another. Alas, they realize they liked their relationship a lot more when it was hidden, when it held the idea of disapproval and (gasp!) wrongfulness.

This sends Matt into a tailspin, and he takes it out on the circus ring leader, El Gallo (Jonathon Morris). Incidentally, and so incredibly predictably, Luisa starts to fall for El Gallo, despite the fact that he’s old, has wrinkles, and looks like a Zorro reject with his absurd cape. Someone should inform him that ring leaders have big hats and mustaches, not capes and Spanish Gaucho hats.

Anyone can guess how this movie ends, as it’s clear immediately from the first scene. Peppered throughout this horrendously disengaging story are ho-hum songs. New-Kids-on-the-Block-alum-slash-current-member-again McIntyre can carry a tune, but his songs are so over the top, they left me cringing. It’s a shame he didn’t even get an opportunity to put his “Right Stuff” touches on musical numbers with some dancing.

While most musicals feel fluid, the performers in The Fantasticks literally break out into song at random, dramatically inappropriate moments. Missing altogether is that familiar build-up to the song. That anticipation. Also missing was a great dance sequence. That should be a requirement of musicals. Every great musical has one, even if it’s just hopping around on benches à la The Sound of Music.

Ultimately, The Fantasticks fails as a love story and as a musical. It should be avoided.

Hanna Soltys is a green tea drinker and film critic living in Chicago.

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