Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Quick Hit Theater Review: Far From Heaven

Far From Heaven
Book By Richard Greenberg
Music by Scott Frankel
Lyrics by Michael Korie
Musical Direction by Lawrence Yurman
Choreography by Alex Sanchez
Directed by Michael Greif

What's It All About?
Well, if you have seen the film written by Todd Hayes, you know. If you haven't it's about Cathy Whitaker (Kelli O'Hara), a 1950s housewife who has it all: corporate executive husband Frank (Steven Pasquale), two perfect kids (Jake Lucas and Juliana Rigoglioso), a country club best friend, Eleanor (the aways excellent Nancy Anderson), and a beautiful house in Hartford, CT (designed in framework by Allen Moyer and accented by projections designed by Peter Nigrini).

What more could the perfectly coiffed and outfitted (Catherine Zuber, costume design; David Brian Brown, wig and hair design) want? After all, her biggest concerns are planning a dinner party menu and making sure her overworked husband gets to their social engagements in time.

"Here Comes the school bus, tally ho!" she cheerfully sings as she sends the kids off with a smile before being interviewed by the Gazette's society reporter Mrs. Leacock (a delightful Mary Stout) who praises the model housewife for being kind to "negros" like her widowed landscaper Raymond Deagan (Isaiah Johnson) and his daughter, Sarah (Elainey Bass).

The world as Cathy perceives it comes crashing down, however, when she discovers that Frank has been putting in those late nights not at the office, but with another man. 1950s social mores don't allow for such deviant behavior and he goes to therapy to try to find a cure. Meanwhile, Cathy discovers the only friend she can be candid with is Raymond, but society frowns on a white woman and a black man spending time together too.
What are the Highlights?
A pleasing jazzy score with funny, clever lyrics with strong performances across the board from the excellently cast ensemble directed by Michael Greif (who directed one of last season's best musicals, Giant, at the Public and who teamed with Frankel and Korie on Grey Gardens). O'Hara, whose lovely soprano always is a treat to hear, is in fine voice here. "The only One," a duet by O'Hara and Johnson is a highlight among the songs, as is the opening number, "Autumn in Connecticut."

What are the Lowlights?
Characters other than Cathy are underdeveloped. We never quite develop enough of a relationship with Frank to understand his conflict. We don't know Raymond well enough either and the relationship between him and Cathy seems forced. There is a lot of good to work with here, though. I would love to see the show developed more, fine tuned and brought to a Broadway stage.

More information:
Far From Heaven has been extended Off Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC, through July 7. Tickets and information:

Christians might also like to know:
-- Homosexuality
-- Homosexual activity
-- God's name taken in  vain
-- Sexually suggestive lyrics
-- Language

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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