On Theater: 'Having It All' has a lot

The five women who comprise the cast of "Having It All," the new musical now on stage at the Laguna Playhouse, might indeed have it all — if their various skills and attitudes were condensed into one individual.

As it is, each of them, no matter how happy or successful she may be, is envious of at least one of the others — especially their shoes. But in John Kavanaugh's sprightly adaptation of a book by Wendy Perelman (original concept) and David Goldsmith (lyrics), they indeed discover how to have it all by the final fadeout.

The five are gathered in a boarding area at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York awaiting a plane to Los Angeles, which is repeatedly delayed, giving each of the women adequate opportunity to vent her frustrations musically. And, as it turns out, jealousy is the least of their concerns as each lady spills out her dreams, hopes and fears, all within a 90-minute running time.

As slickly and skillfully directed (and, presumably, choreographed) by Richard Israel, the five would-be passengers are cross-sections of American womanhood with just one common bond — they all possess glorious singing voices. And they use them with verve and gusto.

There's Julia (Jennifer Leigh Warren), an alpha female career woman, dressed for success and brimming with contempt for those less motivated. Hers is the most powerful vocal presence, which she demonstrates brilliantly late in the show with her dynamic rendition of the show's title tune.

There's Amy (Shannon Warne), a housewife and mother whose marriage has gone sour and who's en route to California to meet a longtime lover. Her musical depiction of "In My Other Life" underscores her deep dissatisfaction.

There's Sissy (Lindsey Alley), a young Jewish journalist who hobbles in on a crutch with a broken foot (injured during a session of vertical romance). She's a novelist with an advance fee but no clue how to earn it — until she begins to catalog the lives of her temporary companions. To her, "Date Is Just a Four-Letter Word" in one of the show's most memorable production numbers.

There's Carly (Michelle Duffy), a well-formed yoga instructor whose devotion to herbs and vegan lifestyle turns off the others but whose fervent enthusiasm for life attracts them. She's the closest of the five to a cliche, but her performance is ultimately winning, especially when her own secret is uncovered.

Then there's Lizzie (Kim Huber), a "normal" housewife who remains in the background, knitting, for the first third of the production before joining in with her own problem — desperation to produce a child. She's overshadowed by the other, flashier, females but manages to get her musical licks in, particularly with her poignant "Meant to Be" solo, and she also has a disturbing secret to impart.

Naturally, there's more to each of the women than is initially presented, and their richly delineated performances uncover these hidden lives succinctly, combining their own impatience with the frustration of repeated travel delays. (Having waited for hours, grounded, at that same airport less than a year ago, I can readily sympathize.)

Whether part of a "women's movement" (the theater's top two executives are female and its next production is "Steel Magnolias") or not, "Having It All" is a sparkling package of contemporary entertainment which male audiences may thoroughly enjoy as well at the Laguna Playhouse.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Coastline Pilot.

If You Go

What: "Having It All"

Where: Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through March 31

Cost: $35 to $65

Information: (949) 497-2787 or http://www.lagunaplayhouse.com

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