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Film Final Far From Heaven Essay

Cathy Whitaker seems to be the picture-perfect wife and mother in suburban Connecticut. But roiling beneath the surface, secret longings and forbidden desires cause her world to unravel, with incendiary consequences. With a lush score that is both jazz-inflected and hauntingly lyrical, Far From Heaven is a powerful story of romance, betrayal, and intolerance, as a woman grapples with her identity in a society on the verge of upheaval.

Scenic Designer: Allen Moyer
Costume Designer: Catherine Zuber
Lighting Designer: Kenneth Posner
Sound Designer: Nevin Steinberg
Production Stage Manager: Judith Schoenfeld
Projection Design: Peter Nigrini
Wig & Hair Design: David Brian Brown
Orchestrations: Bruce Coughlin
Music Director: Lawrence Yurman
Music Coordinator: John Miller

Trailer

Far From Heaven: Recording in the Studio

Kelli O'Hara, Steven Pasquale, Isaiah Johnson, and the rest of the original cast recording the album for FAR FROM HEAVEN at Avatar Studios, NYC.

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Trailer

Backstage with the Far From Heaven Cast

Give two cast members from FAR FROM HEAVEN a video camera, and this is what you get.

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Trailer

Far From Heaven

An exclusive look at scenes from the Playwrights Horizons production of FAR FROM HEAVEN, featuring original music by Scott Frankel, lyrics by Michael Korie.

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Trailer

'Far From Heaven' kids sing You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone

FAR FROM HEAVEN cast members Elainey Bass, Jake Lucas, and Julianna Rigoglioso show us how they pass the time backstage.

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Interview

Tim Sanford and Scott Frankel, Richard Greenberg, and Michael Korie

Tim: When I went to the closing night of Grey Gardens on Broadway, I ran into you, Rich, near the lobby. You seemed kind of excited, for you, albeit slightly abashed to have waited until the last night. When Scott told me years later that he was working with you, it tickled me to think that maybe I’d witnessed the seed of this collaboration planted. RG: I really liked Grey Gardens, and it wasn’t long after that Scott suggested we work together.

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Interview

Interview with Michael Korie and Scott Frankel

An interview with lyricist Michael Korie and composer Scott Frankel, in which they discuss writing FAR FROM HEAVEN, working with Kelli O'Hara, and their experiences working Off-Broadway at PH.

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Podcast

Scott Frankel & Michael Korie

The composer and lyricist of the musical FAR FROM HEAVEN discuss the genesis of the piece, their fruitful collaboration with Kelli O'Hara, and how PH has become their artistic home. Featuring music from the production.

Listen to "Scott Frankel & Michael Korie, Far from Heaven" on Spreaker.

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Podcast

Isaiah Johnson

FAR FROM HEAVEN's Raymond, Isaiah Johnson, recounts his experience growing up military, working with Al Pacino in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, and discusses the benefits of originating a role in a major new musical at Playwrights Horizons. Featuring original music by Scott Frankel, lyrics by Michael Korie. Produced by /13 season Marketing Resident Katie Stoppiello.

Listen to "Isaiah Johnson, Far From Heaven" on Spreaker.

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Interview

TheaterMania exclusive interview with Michael Greif, Scott Frankel and Michael Korie

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Interview

An Interview with the Creators of Far From Heaven

Why Far From Heaven? Michael Korie: In New York, it’s always the right time for a musical about repressed homosexuality, spousal abuse, and racial politics. Now is particularly the right time because in a stealthy way it’s about today. My goal is to create musicals about the America we live in but without making it obvious. The audience at first believes it’s seeing a period piece. Then the realization creeps up, ‘Oh, this all still happens!’

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Essay

Tim Sanford on Far From Heaven

The guidelines of our literary department state that we do not accept dramatic adaptations from other sources, except for musicals. As a writer’s theater, we often find the authorial voice becomes commingled or overshadowed by the originating writer in straight adaptations. But the form of the musical theater is essentially synthetic (made, not observed) and depends on the collaborative synergy of its creators to come into being. The best musicals find their originality and their voice through transformation. It usually behooves the creators to steer clear of widely known or beloved novels or films where an audience might have firmly held preconceptions about the source. Musicals based on somewhat more obscure sources usually provide the creators more artistic leeway.

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Essay

The American Voice: A Brief History of Adaptation

There seems to be a modern complaint about musicals today that you can’t throw a stone down Broadway without hitting a marquee for a show adapted from a recent hit film. As often as not, these productions are seen as a quick fix for the instant marketing and branding of commercial enterprises rather than original shows. However, adaptation in musicals is nothing new, and people have been turning to other sources for a very long time. What’s often overlooked is that the process of adaptation, at its best, finds ways to expand the form of the musical and deepen the manner in which these stories explore our essential humanity.

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Essay

Backstory: Running in Sirk-les

“It was a simpler time” rings the mantra of the Greatest Generation when reflecting upon the American s. Enshrined in our memories by iconic shows like “Leave it to Beaver” and “I Love Lucy,” the s housewife has assumed an almost mythical presence in our cultural consciousness, lamenting an easier time of economic prosperity when neighbors greeted one another in their driveways, kids played stickball in the streets till dusk and the idyllic June Cleaver eagerly awaited her husband’s return from work with a plate of piping hot dinner in her carefully manicured hand.

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This extraordinary film, written and directed by Todd Haynes in homage to the "women's drama" Hollywood pictures of Ross Hunter and Douglas Sirk, is a cinematic event - an event where I came to mock and stayed to pray. At the premiere at last year's Venice film festival, we were all giggling in the first five minutes at what looked like a bafflingly elaborate "Hi-honey-I'm-home" s skit, like something by David Zucker and Jim Abrahams. But quickly, through total immersion in this impeccably acted, brilliantly designed and unflinchingly serious drama, the giggling disappeared in my own case, and was replaced by nothing less than passionate endorsement of its every detail, every nuance, every narrative contour. We all came out stunned by what we'd just seen, instantly and correctly hailed as a capo lavoro, a masterpiece.

I've seen it enough times now to watch dozens of other people go through this same change of mind, and maybe you do need to experience and savour its knife-edge of absurdity, and your own initial incredulity, to appreciate the movie's Wildean connoisseurship of the seriousness in small things. It beats me how some look down on this film as just one big, camp joke. Far from Heaven is much more than camp or pastiche. It is an incredible cinematic séance or even a secular High Mass, at which the real presence of the past is quite unexpectedly summoned up and made to live, spectrally, all about you.

The setting is the autumn of in the affluent small town of Hartford, Connecticut. Cathy Whitaker, played by Julianne Moore, is a beautiful but sobersided mother of two, married to Frank (Dennis Quaid), a ruggedly handsome, go-ahead executive at the Magnatech television company, who has, we are given to understand, seen active service in the second world war as a US naval officer. It is a blissfully happy family scene into which drama and tragedy have yet to intrude.

Everything about Far from Heaven playfully yet reverently alludes to the s as a movie genre. The rich and digitally enhanced autumn leaves feature as tableaux, and as a discreet and tasteful design for the opening and closing credits. Elmer Bernstein's score imitates the lush foliage with its extravagantly emotional strings, later arranged with much emphasis on brooding keyboard and woodwind, dotting and crossing the drama's every "i" and "t". Mark Friedberg's production design is outstanding, surpassing his period work on Pollock and The Ice Storm. Sandy Powell's costumes are superb, especially for Moore herself who is allowed noticeably fuller skirts as the queen bee of her daiquiri-sipping ladies' circle, and some truly showstopping elbow-length gloves for a party scene.

But writer-director Haynes is able to make explicit an issue which could not be tackled by the Sirk movies at the time, and is still partly implicit in a modern and distinctively gay critical sensibility which treasures them now - homosexuality. Frank's terrible secret is that he has encounters with anonymous men met in alleys or in Edward Hopper-type darkened cinemas. Astonished by this discovery, and Frank's self-loathing and drunken cruelty to her, Cathy finds solace in a friendship with her black gardener, Raymond: a cultured widower with a business degree whose appearance at a local art show scandalises the local bigots. It is a performance to which Dennis Haysbert brings a Poitier-esque dignity and poise.

So racism is the second theme. In this world, the black "help" silently take coats and serve drinks at cocktail parties, while boorish suburbanites unburden themselves of their reactionary opinions. But when Cathy earnestly assures Raymond of her support for "negroes" and the NAACP, Raymond is all charm and gentle tact at Cathy's maladroit token of solidarity, as if to calm the horrified frisson now running through the cinema audience itself.

Introducing race and sex into a genre in which they have always been understood to be excluded - showing what's underneath social and cinematic convention - creates a giddy heightened perception, like a drug. But there is something fundamentally serious about what is presented in this movie. Frank's tortured estrangement from his marriage, his coming to terms with himself, and Raymond and Cathy's doomed relationship are stories about human decency and human courage.

Irony or postmodernity are not permitted to undermine them. Cathy suggests to Frank they take a holiday in Miami as a break from the psychiatric treatment he is undergoing for his homosexuality, and he grimaces at her unthinkingly bubbly remark that everything there is pink. "Maybe we'd better not go, then," he smiles, and his heroic attempt at self-deprecatory humour is nothing like an arch wink tipped at the audience. It's a gentle, tender moment between man and wife. Later, Frank bursts into tears in front of his shocked children: his little boy is solemn and silent; his daughter bursts into tears too in uncomprehending sympathy and fear. It is a stunningly real moment of family dysfunction.

When Raymond and Cathy confront the real feelings they have for each other, the effect is just as visceral. Raymond admires the way she can see beyond the surface of things; Cathy asks if he believes that to be truly possible, and Raymond says that he does. They mean the colour of their skin, of course. But here Haynes is also showing his own hand, showing how his story goes beyond the surface of things, goes beyond artifice and pastiche. It is a sensational affirmation of how he has availed himself of these things as craftsman and artist, and yet transcended them. He has used them as a ladder which he has been able to kick away at the last, to produce a brilliant essay in history and genre: a radical dive into the past.

Far from Heaven is such a remarkable achievement - made possible by superb performances from Moore, Quaid and Haysbert - and probably uniquely so. It's difficult to see how it could be developed any further, unless a modern Japanese director wishes to duplicate its effect with reference to Ozu movies like Late Autumn. Todd Haynes has directed a miraculous picture which has dispatched the tired debate about postmodernism; he has given us a vivid human story and a compelling love-letter to cinema itself.