A group of disparate (and perhaps desperate) strangers find themselves stuck in the same space and, not surprisingly, hate each other at first sight. As the minutes tick by, however, they begin talking—out of frustration or necessity—and little by little discover how wrong their first impressions have been. By the time their enforced proximity comes to an end, bonds have been formed, friendships even, and each of these strangers comes out changed for good (in both senses of the term). A proven formula for drama, comedy, and in the case of Having It All, for an original musical now earning cheers at North Hollywood’s NoHo Arts Center.


The brainchild of Wendy Perelman, who has co-written the book with lyricist David Goldsmith, music by John Kavanaugh, Having It All stars five of the Southland’s finest musical theater leading ladies under the direction of the ever fabulous and ingenious Richard Israel. Needless to say, the show is a winner from start to finish.

Taking its cue from the feminist mantra that today’s woman can (and should) have it all—career, spouse, family, friends, financial security, and whatever else “it all” signifies, Having It All focuses on five women whose attempts to have it all have fallen considerably short of perfection. There’s Amy (Shannon Warne), a housewife and mother who longs for adult conversation and a tad more romance than her marriage has offered her of late; Julia (Jennifer Leigh Warren), a high-power career woman with a marriage gone sour, a rebellious teenage daughter, and a business in crisis; Sissy (Lindsey Alley), an aspiring writer with the possibility of a book deal but considerably less likelihood of finding Mr. Right; Carly (Alet Taylor), a vegan yoga instructor and expert on all things herbal, single by choice and off to rendezvous with the man of the moment; and Lizzy, a happily married Midwesterner whose dreams of conceiving a child with husband Bobby have gone unfulfilled through seven years of fertility treatments.

All five women find themselves in a waiting area at JFK, alternately admiring and deriding each other’s choice of footwear, from Julia’s $1000 stilettos to Amy’s Converse sneakers. Sissy is the first to tell the “Story Of My Life,” followed by Carly’s advice that there’s “An Herb For Everyone.” Amy’s “Picture Of A Dream” is not the rosy one she once envisioned for herself. Julia and Carly find that their lives have recently undergone “A Change Of Plans.” Meanwhile, Lizzie continues to dream of “A Baby For Bobby And Me.”

A plane delay and a power blackout conspire to keep all five women together for the duration, and as might be expected, walls come down, secrets are revealed, support is offered, and by the time their flights take off … Well, I’ll leave it to you to guess the rest.

Perelman’s characters straddle the fine line between archetypes and real women, stellar performances tipping the scales solidly towards the latter. Goldsmith and Perelman’s book affords each leading lady considerably more opportunity to wear her Legit Actress hat than most musicals do. Goldsmith’s lyrics are clever and incisive. Kavanaugh’s music is bright and breezy, making one hope that selected songs will be made available for pre-or-post-show enjoyment at the show’s website.

As for the cast, these L.A./Broadway stars do have it all—beauty, vocal prowess, acting chops, the whole package. Alley brings a wry humor and quirky charm to Sissy, Huber is as always luminous as Lizzie, Taylor makes for a deliciously trippy Carly, Warne gives Amy radiance and pluck, and Warren proves divinely divalicious as Julia. Vocally, each lady scores a perfect 10.

Providing impeccable piano backup is musical director Gregory Nabours, though a listen to the one song available for audio perusal on the Having It All website demonstrates how much richer Kavanaugh’s melodies sound when a few more instruments join in.

Stephen Gifford’s JFK waiting area is another magnificent creation by the two-time StageSceneLA Set Designer Of The Year. (Love those huge cumulous clouds seen through the windows!) Luke Moyer’s lighting is vivid and varied, whether focusing in on one of the women, illuminating the fivesome as a whole, adding to the emotional impact of a song, or simulating generator backup lights during the blackout sequence. Cricket S. Myers’ sound design places us smack dab inside the air terminal alongside the five women. Costume designer Ann Closs-Farley has selected just the right outfit for each character, and a perfect second one for the end-of-show coda. Casting is by Michael Donovan CSA, vocal arrangements are by John Kavanaugh, and Chris Warren Murry is stage manager.

With talents like Alley, Huber, Taylor, Warne, and Warren taking center stage, a mere singing of the phone book would make for a musical treat. Fortunately Having It All gives audiences much, much more. A show that will resonate with women of all ages, and might just touch the heart and funny-bone of men in tow, Having It All entertains and enriches in equal measure.

NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.
–Steven Stanley
March 17, 2011
Photos: Michael Lamont

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