Entertainment » Theatre

Having it All

by Sarah Taylor Ellis
Tuesday Mar 15, 2011
Lindsey Alley, Kim Huber, Alet Taylor, Jennifer Leigh Warren and Shannon Warne in Having it All.
Lindsey Alley, Kim Huber, Alet Taylor, Jennifer Leigh Warren and Shannon Warne in Having it All.  (Source: Michael Lamont)

For a pleasant evening of entertainment, Having It All may just be your cup of tea. This new one-act musical never fully takes flight, but offers talented performances, impressive production values, and a heartfelt - if somewhat contrived - message.

Conceived by Wendy Perelman, the show draws inspiration from Helen Gurley Brown's 1982 book of the same name, which postulated that women could, in fact, successfully balance career and family.

With book by Perelman and David Goldsmith, lyrics by Goldsmith, and music by John Kavanaugh, Having it All weaves together the stories of five contemporary New York woman who share their experiences, dreams, and desires while stuck together at JFK waiting out flight delays.

Each character is clearly delineated if somewhat caricatured: the dissatisfied mom Amy (Shannon Warne), the fierce businesswoman Julia (Jennifer Leigh Warren), the quirky writer Sissy (Lindsey Alley), the earthy yoga instructor Carly (Alet Taylor), and the small-town wife Lizzie (Kim Huber).

As the women interact, revealing their deepest secrets, an unconvincing narrative trajectory toward simultaneous resolutions of their individual issues begins to form. The hackneyed device would doom a lesser production, but here is kept at bay by the powerful, grounded voice of each character, uniting in a beautiful articulation of multiple, layered feminine desires.

Although much of the dialogue centers on absent husbands, lovers, and children, the female bonds established in catchy song and dance forge a makeshift community and support network out of the five.

These women seem so different at the beginning of the musical, imagining what life would be like in one another's leopard pumps or worn-in Keds. But instead of ending up in pointless competition, they gradually connect as their tales reflect and refract each other's dreams. Richard Israel's clean direction emphasizes that "having it all" includes forming female bonds; that a woman is not merely the sum of her involvements and obligations.

Music director Gregory Nabours crafts each song into a compelling emotional journey, even though the impressive piano accompaniment lacks the depth and nuance a larger band would provide. Stephen Gifford's scenic design stylizes the clean and confining airport with a punch of color, and Ann Closs-Farley's costumes clearly define character.

I suppose one can't really have it all. This impressive production could benefit from a bit more development and diversity of experience. Although it never lifts off, Having It All has the professional entertainment value for a good, steady run.

Performances through Sunday, April 24 at the NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd. (at Lankershim) in North Hollywood. For tickets, call 323-960-7776 or visit www.plays411.com/havingitall.

Sarah Taylor Ellis is a PhD candidate in Theater and Performance Studies at UCLA. She is also a musical theater composer, music director, and accompanist (www.staylorellis.com).


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