Back in 1976, a small play called Vanities by Jack Heifner opened at the Chelsea Theatre Off Broadway. Directed by a remarkable young director, Garland Wright, who later became Artistic Director of the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, it eventually played all over America in every regional, amateur and high school theater. The cast consisted of Susan Merson, Jane Galloway and a brilliant young Kathy Bates. 32 years later this gem has been turned into the delightful Vanities - A New Musical, now playing at the Pasadena Playhouse.
The show traces the story of three Texas girls in the 60s as they grow and change through life together, from high school ”best friends” to mature women with very separate lives. The plot line is simple: they are teenagers together, go to college together, go through a difficult time together when their life paths are so different they seem to have nothing more in common, and are brought together again in time of tragedy. This plot, though simple and now perhaps a bit obvious, still holds hidden depth and truthfulness.
The three actresses involved are quite talented and have great acting and singing skills. Lauren Kennedy plays the lanky, sexy rebel Mary. I had seen her in London in Trevor Nunn’s revival of South Pacific and have always remembered her shining talent. She doesn’t disappoint here. Sarah Stiles plays Joanne, the girl and then woman whose journey is to find herself and discover that she doesn’t have to plan her life and make lists, but can just live each day and be happy as a single woman. Ms. Stiles has a powerful voice that ranges from a legit to an operatic tone. Annaliese Van Der Pol plays Kathy, who never seems to change until she discovers her husband has been unfaithful. Up until then she has been a typical, though a bit clichéd, suburban housewife content to stay at home and be a mother, wife, and homemaker. Her character gets the most laughs, and Ms. Van Der Pol does a terrific drunk scene.