After our rather mixed weather bag of a Bank Holiday, there’s sun all the way in Little Miss Sunshine from Tony Award-winners James Lapine and William Finn.
Based on the Oscar-winning film of the same name, this fun musical road trip introduces us to the hapless Hoover family, living a family drama to beat any good soap opera.
Drawing parallels from most families, there are both harrowing and cathartic moments. We join the Hoovers on their almost impossible mission, when an invitation comes out of nowhere, for the youngest member of the clan, Olive (Evie Gibson- one of three young actors taking on the role during the run) to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest in California.
The Hoovers must pile into their beloved and rather rickety camper van, it’s yellow of course, and take the rocky road to possible stardom.
The family is made up of a host of familiar faces. Grandpa played by Mark Moraghan (Tim Richards in Emmerdale and Adrian Mortimer in Coronation Street) provides us with a lively determination to live life to the full and sings in praise of limitless sex; whilst Lucy O’Byrne (The Voice turned musical star) plays Sheryl, the matriarch and the sanest of the sometimes endearing, always eccentric Hoover Family. Her ever optimistic husband Richard, (Gabriel Vick) is on the verge of bankruptcy ‘but will think about that tomorrow.’
Two-time Olivier-award nominee, Paul Keating (Little Shop of Horrors, The Full Monty) is Sheryl’s suicidal brother; Frank, who is a Proust scholar and Sheryl’s son Dwayne (Sev Keoshgerian) is a morose teenager with a liking for Nietzschean philosophy. Can the camper van survive the 800-mile trip from Albuquerque, New Mexico to California – and more importantly, can the Hoovers?
Will the ‘Mean Girls’ (Alicia Belgarde, Scarlet Rocheand Elena Christie) knock Olive’s confidence? No, she will have none of it! Grandpa, who was asked to leave his last retirement home, shares a close and loving bond with Olive and trains her in her dance routine ready for the pageant, we are fortunate to witness this later in the show. He imparts advice to his grandson: ‘Don’t go near drugs until you’re on social security.’
On the way we meet various characters played by Ian Carlyle and Mathew McDonald. The intimidating hospital secretary and the fabulously over the top Miss California (Imelda Warren-Green) and listen out for the very annoying Sat Nav.
Will they reach California in time? Will the campervan survive? Will Dwayne ever speak again? Will Olive become ‘Little Miss Sunshine’? All these questions are answered in this nostalgic story of true determination and wayward charm. In all, it’s a very likeable show with an almost loveable family.★ ★ ★ ★
Read our interview with Mark Moraghan who plays Grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine.