‘Far from Heaven’ opens off-Broadway: What did the critics think?

Stephen Pasquale and Kelli O'Hara, along with members of the company in a scene from the musical version of the 2002 movie "Far from Heaven" at Playwrights Horizons in New York.
Stephen Pasquale and Kelli O’Hara, along with members of the company in a scene from the musical version of the 2002 movie “Far from Heaven” at Playwrights Horizons in New York.
(Joan Marcus / Associated Press)

A new musical version of the 2002 movie “Far From Heaven” has descended on Playwrights Horizons in New York. Starring Kelli O’Hara in the role originated by Julianne Moore, the musical traces the inner life of a suburban Connecticut housewife circa 1957.

The central creative team of the new musical -- composer Scott Frankel, lyricist Michael Korie and director Michael Greif -- previously turned the 1975 documentary “Grey Gardens” into a successful stage musical. “Grey Gardens” also played at Playwrights Horizons, before transferring to Broadway in 2006.

Todd Haynes’ movie was a double homage to the movies of Douglas Sirk and Rainer Werner Fassbinder that tread a fine line between sincere kitsch and a retro-love of the same. The new musical , which co-stars Steven Pasquale in the Dennis Quaid role and Isaiah Johnson in the Dennis Haysbert role, is adapted by the prolific, award-winning playwright Richard Greenberg.

PHOTOS: Hollywood stars on stage


“Far from Heaven” follows homemaker Cathy Whitaker as she develops a friendship with her black gardener while dealing with marital uncertainty after discovering a hidden truth about her husband.

What did critics think about “Far from Heaven”?

David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter called the show a “flawed but compelling work of delicate nuances and lingering rewards.” In the lead role, “O’Hara effortlessly conveys the stage equivalent of a screen closeup.”

The New York Times’ Ben Brantley wrote that there’s a “nagging sense throughout that Ms. O’Hara, like the character she plays, is not being allowed to express her vast potential. Too often she seems confined to two dimensions... So, for that matter, does the show as a whole.”

Marilyn Stasio of Variety concluded that the musical “mainly patronizes and caricatures its targets of irony.” The show’s use of stylistic devices to create a cinematic feel “is exactly the kind of literal treatment that you don’t want” from a stage musical.

Entertainment Weekly‘s Adam Markovitz described the show as “pure, theatrical cheese” that takes the subtle irony of the original movie “at face value.” But the “fault doesn’t lie with the performers” and O’Hara “makes a vivid and poignant Cathy.”


A rich season for playwright Richard Greenberg


Kelli O’Hara and Nathan Gunn: The melodic power of two

Tony Awards 2013: ‘Pippin,’ Christopher Durang gain momentum