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Finding Common Ground in ‘Having it All’

“To extrapolate a woman’s state,

you barely have to meet,

the most accurate report

is what she’s sporting on her feet…!”

 

1 playhouse alternate HIA_A185 copy So goes a chorus line in “Having it All,” a musical production at the Laguna Playhouse opening on Saturday, March 9.

Loosely inspired or perhaps instigated by Helen Gurley Brown’s 1982 book of the same title, the storyline centers on five disparate women who find themselves stranded in a holding area at JFK Airport in New York, enduring flight delays, electrical blackouts, temperamental cell phones and each other.

Seeing no common ground at first, Julia (Jennifer Lee Warren), a jaded public relations executive, Amy (Shannon Warne), a “small town girl” from the midwest, Sissy (Lindsey Alley), a writer with an impending deadline and chronic writer’s block, Lizzy (Kim Huber) a happily married housewife unable to conceive children and Carly (Michelle Duffy) a yoga instructor touting an organic lifestyle and mental processes to match, size each other up by their footwear and apparel with sometimes tragic-comic conclusions.

In an interview, Warren said that her career has shuttled between her native Dallas, Tex., New Hampshire, New York City and Los Angeles, where she has met many people she could draw on for her role.

“It’s a universal theme, not just for women. It has depth and teaches everyone about making assumptions about anyone,” she said. “I am also thrilled to perform in Laguna Beach again and share the stage with strong and talented women. It is heartwarming how we bonded with each other in the process.”

Warren previously performed at the playhouse in “Lonesome Traveler” and “The Lonesome Travelers in Concert.”

Not to be a spoiler, the quintet is stuck in the airport long enough to tentatively reach out, cattily hiss and claw and then learn to accept and care about each other, almost becoming friends. Some 30 years after Gurley Brown, issues still center on career travails, competition for success, family and children, men and love. Only here, inflated expectations are brought in line with reality, with everyone the wiser and no one poorer in the end. To tweak the Rolling Stones, they may not have gotten all that they want but come to realize how they have all that they need, for the time-being anyway.

Produced by David Elzer and his production partner Peter Schneider, “Having it All” features music by John Kavanaugh, lyrics by David Goldsmith and book by Wendy Perelman and Goldsmith.

When Elzer first read the script, it was titled “Having it Almost,” but says that he renamed for its 2011 Los Angeles production into its current title. That is when Laguna Playhouse artistic director Ann E. Wareham saw it and, like audiences and critics, fell in love with it. “It’s a wonderful musical with strong, terrific characters, and the story is accessible and resonates with people.”

Stranded at an airport, women discover common ground and compassion for each other.

Stranded at an airport, women discover common ground and compassion for each other.

Elzer had no qualms about selecting Richard Israel to direct the show. “I thought of a woman but Richard was so in tune with the material that I found him to be the best director for it,” he said.

“It’s difficult for a man to fully understand the perspective of having it all but any man who has women in his life will have observed how they juggle what is expected of them. I have been lucky to have known women that I could cull from as I entered into this process,” said Israel. He went on to say that the characters could turn into millions of different permutations and that the show’s creators distilled characteristics well enough for women and men in the audience to identify with all five women.

With previews beginning March 5, rehearsal time has been short but Israel has taken it in stride. “This is a remount production and in a larger and better venue, and I am working with a seasoned cast I know well and love,” he said.

“Having it All” presents new material for the Playhouse. “I am always looking at what’s around the corner, at what’s new and exciting and good,” said Wareham. “I have no doubt that men and women alike with appreciate this show.”

 

Having It All: Opens March 9 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $35-65. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Rd. www.lagunaplayhouse.com   949-497-2787. Through March 31.

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