Having scored a grand total of seven Ovation Award nominations in its 2011 World Premiere run, the hit musical Having It All now graduates to the big stage of the Laguna Playhouse in a production which reunites four of its five original stars and preserves the many pleasures Angelinos enjoyed in it the first time round … and then some.

HAVING IT ALL - LAGUNA - 2 Like many a movie, play, or musical before it, Having It all takes a group of disparate (and perhaps desperate) strangers, sticks them in the same space at the same time, and watches as the sparks fly between characters who, to their dismay and audience delight, hate each other at first sight.

Naturally, as the minutes tick by, they begin talking—out of frustration or necessity—and little by little discover how wrong their first impressions (and ours) have been.

Not surprisingly, by the time these five women’s enforced proximity has come to an end, bonds have been formed, and friendships even, as each of these strangers finds herself changed for good (in both senses of the term) by having the four other women in her life.

The brainchild of Wendy Perelman, who has co-written the book with David Goldsmith, lyricist to John Kavanaugh’s melodies, Having It All once again stars five of our finest musical theater leading ladies under the direction of the ever fabulous and ingenious Richard Israel. Needless to say, as it was at the NoHo Arts Center back in 2011, Having It All at the Laguna Playhouse 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 (Michelle Duffy), 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. Can anyone say “Cast Recording please?”

HAVING IT ALL - LAGUNA - 1 As for the onstage quintet, these L.A./Broadway stars do have it all—beauty, vocal prowess, acting chops, the whole package.

Alley (who along with her costars scored an Outstanding Ensemble Scenie two years ago) once again brings a wry humor and quirky charm to Sissy, making it a treat to see her reprise the role, plot-related walking leg cast and all. Huber, who’s won a Best Actress Scene since Having It All 1.0 for her enchanting performance as Maria in The Sound Of Music, is every bit as luminous a Lizzie as before. Warne, who has since 2011 won another Best Actress Scenie for playing (guess what?) Maria in The Sound Of Music, imbues Amy with that trademark Warne radiance and pluck. Warren, whose Shirley Bassey tribute won her a Best Cabaret/Nightclub performance Scenie, is every bit as divinely divalicious as Julia, earning the evening’s biggest cheers for her 11:00 solo (which happens at about 9:05 or so). Finally, Having It All 2.0 marks the divine Duffy’s first SoCal appearance since her Broadway debut in Leap Of Faith, and what a treat it is to have the Scenie-winning Performer Of The Year (for The Fix, Kiss Me Kate, and Mask) back on our stages to make the deliciously trippy Carly very much her own, and unlike any role I’ve seen her in to date. Vocally, there couldn’t be five more stellar song stylists than the fivesome onstage at the Playhouse.

Joining Having It All this time round (and providing impeccable piano backup) is musical director extraordinaire Gerald Sternbach.

Stephen Gifford has expanded his terrific JFK waiting area to fit the Laguna Playhouse stage, another marvelous creation by one of L.A.’s premier scenic designers. (Love those huge cumulous clouds seen through the windows!) Luke Moyer’s lighting is once again 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. Corinne Carillo’s sound design places us smack dab inside the air terminal alongside the five women. Costume designer Ann Closs-Farley has again selected just the right outfit for each character, and a perfect second one for the end-of-show coda. Don Hill is stage manager.

Tuesday’s Laguna Playhouse audience was filled with women whose joy at seeing their lives depicted onstage was palpable; however Having It All isn’t just for the 50.8% of the population who find themselves represented in it. As was the case the first time round, Having It All will not only resonate with women of all ages, it can just as easily touch the heart and funny-bone of any male with his own challenges at fulfilling all of life’s many demands.

A crackerjack (make that crackerjill) show with an engaging plot, hummable songs, and performers whose talents just don’t quit… Who says you can’t Have It All?

The Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach.

–Steven Stanley
March 12, 2013
Photos: Ed Krieger

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