Musical theater leading lady Kelli O'Hara returns to the New York boards in the film-to-stage transfer of "Far From Heaven." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
"Far From Heaven" is an extremely ambitious work with direction and music by the same team behind the much-admired Broadway musical "Grey Gardens." And while their latest is far from perfect, there's no denying parts of this off-Broadway tuner are indeed heavenly.
It's 1957. Cathy Whitaker of Hartford, Connecticut seems to "have it all" with a nice suburban home, two kids and a gainfully employed husband named Frank. But her perfect world collapses when she discovers that Frank's late nights at the office are spent in the arms of others, and even more shattering, he's seeing men. Heartbroken, Cathy finds comfort in a burgeoning friendship with her gardener, a cultured black man named Raymond.
Like the film on which it's based, "Far From Heaven" delves into some very heavy issues, racism and sexual repression in particular. Michael Greif's sensitive direction avoids melodrama, and the book by Richard Greenberg hues closely to the muted dynamics of the era.
But there are flaws. The darkly lit set featuring moving scaffolds shrouds the drama with a cheapening effect. And while compelling, the story lacks the film's overwhelming tug of emotion.
Musically, the show soars. Scott Frankel and Michael Korie composed a lush, jazzy palette of songs.
Nancy Anderson colors her performance with impressive spunk as Cathy's friend. Steven Pasquale brings a multitude of shades to the terribly conflicted Frank. And if sparks don't exactly fly, Isaiah Johnson's Raymond sings beautifully, and Kelli O'Hara once again shines like no other. Stifled by layers of repressed emotions, she strips them down one by one to emerge wounded and pure.
If for no other reason, see "Far From Heaven" for Kelli O'Hara's heart-rending performance. Radiating beauty and talent, this lovely actress truly does seem to have it all.