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'Far From Heaven' Opens Off Broadway: REVIEW

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BY NAVEEN KUMAR

Todd Haynes critically-acclaimed and Oscar nominated film Far From Heaven has been adapted into a sometimes moving though mostly puzzling new musical that opened Off Broadway Sunday at Playwrights Horizons.

FarFromHeaven511rScThe musical, with music by Scott Frankel, lyrics by Michael Korie and book by Richard Greenberg, depends first on suspending disbelief that the buttoned-up folks of 1950’s Connecticut turn their preternaturally repressed feelings into song. In a time and place so characterized by tension between polished exteriors and locked-up inner life, it can be a hard pill to swallow.

Nonetheless Haynes’ film is rich with promising material for the stage. Cathy Whitaker and her husband Frank (played here by Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale) seem like the perfect Hartford couple. But Cathy’s decorous charm isn’t just that, her uncommonly generous character extends to everyone around her—making her particularly vulnerable to the affects of misfortune.

Cathy is dealt her first blow when Frank’s distant attitude towards her and their children turns out to be the result of his desire for other men. After she catches him staying late at the office with an anonymous paramour, he agrees to see a doctor about getting back on the straight and narrow.

In the meantime, Cathy finds herself developing a unique bond with her African-American gardener Raymond Deagan (Isaiah Johnson), whose calm dignity and open heart are in sync with her own. Of course there's more trouble on the way as others in town catch wind of their friendship.

FarFromHeaven166rScHaynes film infuses this quiet story with opulent splendor—deep colors, sweeping, picturesque shots and sumptuous interiors—contrasting operatic visuals with the constrained emotional lives of his characters. Though the film’s heightened style is innately theatrical, and Elmer Bernstein’s score plays a big role in creating that style, the dynamics of a stage musical are something quite different.

Frankel and Korie, the writing team behind Grey Gardens (which also had its start at Playwrights Horizons), turn much of the screenplay into sung conversation. Though some numbers reach a certain level of heightened feeling, many are simply used in place of dialogue. Given the characters' constant struggle to keep emotions below the surface, there are only rare moments when song seems an appropriate medium of expression.

FarFromHeaven086rScO’Hara’s honeyed voice and delicate charm are well suited to the role of Cathy, and she’s master of her element anchoring a period musical. As her husband wrestling with a forbidden identity, Pasquale lacks the congenial warmth and depth of feeling that suffused Dennis Quaid’s linchpin performance in Haynes’ film. Without a glimpse of Frank and Cathy’s former happiness, the dissolving of their marriage has little impact.

As directed by Michael Greif (also a collaborator on Grey Gardens) action moves fluidly through designer Allen Moyer’s angular, rotating set. Projections by Peter Nigrini and other supplemental design (mostly in the form of seasonal matter falling gracefully from above) hint toward the visual interest of the film. But the tools that make the story work on screen remain mostly out of reach. 

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Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos: joan marcus)


Todd Haynes' 'Far From Heaven' Being Adapted into a Stage Musical

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Far From Heaven, "the 2002 (Todd Haynes) film starring Julianne Moore as a 1950s housewife coping with a closeted gay husband (Dennis Quaid) and her romantic feelings toward a black gardener (Dennis Haysbert)," is being developed into a musical by the composer and lyricist behind Broadway's Grey Gardens, the NYT reports:

"The composer Scott Frankel and the lyricist Michael Korie, who most recently collaborated on the 2009 musical 'Happiness' at Lincoln Center Theater, will be joined on 'Far from Heaven' by the playwright Richard Greenberg (the Tony-winning “Take Me Out”), who will write the book, Playwrights Horizons announced on Friday. There is no deadline for the commission, and the show is unlikely to arrive at the Off Broadway theater before 2012 at the earliest, a spokesman for the theater said...The regional theater partner for 'Far from Heaven,' which will produce it first before the move to Playwrights Horizons, will be announced later, along with a director and a production timetable."


Watch: Trailer for Todd Haynes' Remake of 'Mildred Pierce'

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Here's the first trailer for HBO's upcoming miniseries remake of the 1945 gay fave Mildred Pierce, starring Kate Winslet as the working class mother originated by Joan Crawford. Evan Rachel Wood plays the daughter. Hopefully Wood can rise out of her True Blood malaise, though it's hard to imagine Crawford's sharp portrayal being bettered, even by a veteran like Winslet.

The miniseries is directed by Todd Haynes, which offers a glimmer of hope.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Watch: Trailer for Todd Haynes' Remake of 'Mildred Pierce'" »


News: Tom DeLay, Public Option, UFOs, Madonna, Provincetown

RoadObama administration to drop "public option" on health care: "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that government alternative to private health insurance is 'not the essential element' of the administration's health care overhaul. The White House would be open to co-ops, she said, a sign that Democrats want a compromise so they can declare a victory." Re-branding?

Coltonhaynes RoadActor Colton Haynes to play 17-year-old a-hole in Look.

RoadFormer House Majority leader Tom DeLay to join new season of Dancing with the Stars. Full cast here.

RoadMumbai celebrates Gay Pride following Indian ruling decriminalizing gay sex.

RoadBritain's Ministry of Defence releases new batch of UFO files: "The 14 files released today by the National Archives include more than 800 sightings reported between 1993 and 1996, and contain more than 4,000 pages of material dating back to 1981."

RoadHere's a profile on the judge hearing the federal court case challenging Proposition 8. L.A. Times agrees with Equality California's decision to battle Prop 8 in 2012 rather than 2010. Groups split...

RoadKate Winslet signs on for Todd Haynes miniseries adaptation of Mildred Pierce.

RoadRobert Downey Jr. to take on the role of Vampire Lestat?

RoadMadonna spends 51st birthday with  her children — Lourdes, David, Mercy, and Jesus.

Anchorage RoadAnchorage mayor to decide fate of anti-discrimination ordinance...

RoadTransgender woman sexually assaulted, beaten, in Trinidad, Colorado: "According to the police report obtained by the Chieftain, the attacker saw the woman in the lobby of the hotel and followed her back to her room. She did not let him in, but he later returned and forced his way in, sexually assaulted her, then tried to drown her in the bathtub and electrocute her by dropping a hair dryer into the bathtub. The victim reported that the attacker used anti-gay slurs as he attacked her."

RoadGay Boston news anchor Randy Price to lead Provincetown Carnival parade.

Marilynmonroe RoadBe Marilyn Monroe's dead neighbor.

RoadMale model fix: Gabriel Zadok Everett.

RoadIn honor of Madonna's 51st birthday, Film Experience takes a look at Madge's work on the silver screen.

RoadJezebel editor blames gay men for fashion industry woes: "I think that gay men are actually the most to blame for many of the problems in the fashion industry, like the absence of womanly curves on the runway, and the hideous, figure-assaulting trend that is the tent dress, which no women who have tits, and no straight men who have an appreciation for tits, have any use for."

RoadBroward County Deputee, who targeted Hispanic men in order to sexually abuse them, had a history of complaints which were ignored.


Todd Haynes: Still a Feminino; Dispatches from LA & Brazil.

road.jpg  Still playing with dolls, superstar filmmaker Todd Haynes just won't play it safe. His self-spoof is not far from heaven. (Dan, thx for tip to Film Experience)

road.jpg  Brazilian Senator Magno Malta makes a televised speech against the proposed hate crimes legislation says, "allowing gays to manifest affection in public would be the equivalent of giving pedophiles (or even necrophiles) a seal of approval." Made in Brazil has video and translates a few excerpts.

road.jpg  Gang2 Sadly, AIDS walks have provided essential funding for so long that they have lost much of their energy and are part of the annual change in seasons. This Sunday's for AIDS Project Los Angeles has some renewed energy from a group started after last years walk by local nightlife producer Tom Whitman. The Gang of 100 is invite-only with the stated aim of trying to "engage an entire group of 25-45 year old guys and girls who aren't necessarily used to getting involved." Members each agree to raise $2000 for different charities and 100% of the proceeds from every even go to charity. I'm not sure about the the site's promise that if you see the Gang of 100 name on an invite "you will know that the event will be filled with fun, sexy, gregarious people that you will want to hang out with." but i am impressed that they're close to hitting their $100,000 goal for Sunday's walk. It could be the promised "half-time cocktail hour" (Disclosure: i just  donated.)


News: Al Gore, Arctic, Todd Haynes, Wide Stance, J Lo

road.jpg Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch says he believes in civil unions: "I think people should have the same rights as far as probate is concerned, as far as health care is considered, as far as visitation and all those things."

Toddhaynesroad.jpg The New York Times looks at Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan film I'm Not There: "Todd Haynes’s Dylan film isn’t about Dylan. That’s what’s going to be so difficult for people to understand. That’s what’s going to make “I’m Not There” so trying for the really diehard Dylanists. That’s what might upset the non-Dylanists, who may find it hard to figure out why he bothered to make it at all. And that’s why it took Haynes so long to get it made. Haynes was trying to make a Dylan film that is, instead, what Dylan is all about, as he sees it, which is changing, transforming, killing off one Dylan and moving to the next, shedding his artistic skin to stay alive. The twist is that to not be about Dylan can also be said to be true to the subject Dylan."

road.jpg Al Gore frontrunner for Nobel Peace Prize "in a controversial move that could place saving the planet above saving people from war and conflict."

road.jpg An animated study of the melting of the Arctic ice pack.

road.jpg Ugly Betty's subversive flamboyance.

road.jpg Alabama minister dies during autoerotic undertaking. Gary Aldridge "was found hogtied and wearing two complete wet suits, including a face mask, diving gloves and slippers, rubberized underwear, and a head mask." There was also another detail that the Montogomery Advertiser failed to mention in their story on the late pastor.

road.jpg J Lo is assembling a lovely collection of body tents but still hasn't announced that she's pregnant.

Unsureroad.jpg I Love New York 2 contestant "Unsure" is sure of one thing: he enjoys showing his naughty bits off to the gays.

road.jpg "Wide stance" enters the lexicon.

road.jpg The Daily Show's Samantha Bee: "It's been months since the Minneapolis High Court found Larry Craig gay. Now that his petition of 'not gay' has been thrown out, it's official: Larry Craig is gay in the eyes of the law."

road.jpg Gawker heads inside NYC's "Slingback" party.

road.jpg Lesbian who was thrown out of New York restaurant women's room by bouncer because she looked like a man, files civil rights lawsuit: "He began pounding on the stall door saying someone had complained that there was a man inside the women’s bathroom, that I had to leave the bathroom and the restaurant. Inside the stall door, I could see him. That horrified me, and it made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I said to him, 'I’m a female, and I’m supposed to be in here.' After I came out of the bathroom stall, I attempted to show him my ID to show him that I was in the right place, and he just refused to look at my identification. His exact words were, 'Your ID is neither here nor there.'"


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