Little Miss Sunshine

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Based on the Oscar-winning film of the same title, Little Miss Sunshine has been given the musical treatment and the result will undoubtedly be warming audience’s hearts on its UK tour. The musical is written by Tony Award-winning team James Lapine (Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George) and William Finn (Falsettos, 25thAnnual Putnam County Spelling Bee).

We follow the Hoover family on an across state journey from New Mexico to California as they allow seven-year-old Olive to follow her dream of winning the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant.

However, all is not well in the Hoover camp, who like most families have a few ‘issues’: Dad Richard (Gabriel Vick) has lost his job and is pinning his hopes on a potential book deal. Grandpa Hoover (Mark Moraghan) is living life to the full, sex, drugs and rock and roll! Then there is Uncle Frank (Paul Keating) a disgraced college professor who after a failed relationship has tried to commit suicide. Also, there is Olive’s brother Dwayne (Sev Keoshgerian) is on a self-imposed speaking ban until he fulfils his dream of becoming a pilot. Attempting to hold this band of misfits together is downtrodden Mum Sheryl (Lucy O’Byrne).

Finally, we get to the gorgeous and determined Olive (played tonight by Evie Gibson): Olive is the innocent and adored baby of the family, full of joie de vivre. The Hoover tribe begin the stressful journey to the competition, opting to use their old VW camper van, but a series of obstacles and tragic events ensure the trip doesn’t go as smoothly as they would like.

Director Mehmet Ergen’s production is a fun, darkly comic drama that despite having a hard shell, has a soft centre. The ensemble cast have great chemistry and you fully invest in this dysfunctional family dynamic. The performance of Gibson as the adorable Olive anchors the show and its through her portrayal that you will her to succeed, and by the same token the rest of the family too.

Despite this being billed as “a road musical” there are no stand out musical numbers, nothing that you’ll be humming or toe-tapping any time soon. The songs are perfectly fine, if unspectacular: they have a quirky side to them which is in keeping with the tone of the show.

Despite a slightly slow first act, the show really kicks in after the interval to give us a warm, touching, and funny show that will leave you with a smile on your face and glad you spent your evening with the Hoovers and you might even pick up some new dance moves!

Little Miss Sunshine is on at The Lowry until Saturday 1st June tickets available here.

 

Meet the cast of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Little Voice

The Octagon Theatre Bolton have celebrated their 51st birthday by announcing casting for their upcoming production of Jim Cartwright’s timeless comic tragedy in Bolton’s iconic Albert Halls.

The electrifying drama will be performed by a company of talented actors including Kate Elin-Salt who performed Little Voice in the Octagon Theatre’s acclaimed 2012 production. Further casting includes Sally George, Mark Moraghan, Ted Robbins, Sue Vincent and Akshay Gulati.

Little Voice escapes her dreary life through singing stunning impersonations of her favourite hits. In fear that her mother might blow a fuse, LV escapes in her attic room through her father’s old vinyl collection – she loves the great divas: Bassey, Garland, Piaf, Springfield, Holliday. Get ready for a stunning collection of hits including Big Spender, Over the Rainbow and Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien performed live on stage.

Little Voice will be directed by Ben Occhipinti will run from Thu 24 January – Sat 2 February 2019 at the Albert Halls, Bolton as the Octagon’s town centre theatre undergoes a multi-million pound redevelopment. Tickets available here.

    

 

 

 

Lennon’s Banjo

Lennon's Banjo cast in costume - credit Dave Jones

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Lennon’s Banjo aims to shed some light on one of the biggest rock ‘n’ roll mysteries of all time, where on earth is the Holy Grail of pop memorabilia which John Lennon learnt his trade on that’s been missing since 1958?

The whereabouts of the mother of pearl backed banjo have never been revealed but one thing is certain, whoever discovers this missing musical treasure which without we may never have heard the Beatles would guarantee themselves instant fortune.

Writer Rob Fennah aims to shed some light on this missing part of Beatles history in his new comedy play, aptly titled, Lennon’s Banjo. The story follows Beatles tour guide Barry, a fab four fanatic who delights in sharing his knowledge to anyone who will listen but especially tourists who roll up for his magical mystery tour. One day he stumbles upon an unopened letter sent from John Lennon to Stuart Sutcliffe detailing where the missing banjo is stashed. Ever the artist the language in John’s letter is flowery and littered with jabberwocky style riddles which will need deciphering before the precious pop memorabilia can be located. Unfortunately for Barry he’s overheard discussing the letter by a double crossing, dodgy dealing Texan who fancies finding the infamous banjo for himself. Cue comedy capers galore as the race to discover the whereabouts of Lennon’s priceless relic begins.

Eric Potts heads up a strong cast at the loveable Barry, happy in his Beatles bubble he is trusting in nature which could very easily become his undoing. Potts is a superb comedy actor, he excels in the role and portrays Barry with such heart you find yourself willing him to succeed from the off.

Mark Moraghan and Jake Abraham as Joe and Steve, Barry’s begrudging buddies and local Beatles memorabilia shop owners add depth to the piece as they team up with hapless Barry in the race to find the musical treasure. There’s mickey taking a plenty and despite their apparent irritation with Barry and his endless Beatles facts the genuine affection for their pal shines through. The scenes between the three being a real highlight of the show as the banter and the put downs flow they are likeable, relatable and enormously entertaining.

Villains of the piece Travis and Cheryl portrayed brilliantly by Danny O’Brien and Stephanie Dooley add another layer to the story as their desperate and debt driven search for the illusive banjo becomes increasingly complex while the consequences of not delivering it get higher. The two have great chemistry and despite attempting to double cross an unwitting Barry are enormously likeable.

The strong cast deliver Rob Fennah’s witty script to perfection in this laugh out loud production, with wonderfully clear storytelling littered with humorous local references. Lennon’s Banjo is a fun and fast paced comedy romp. With bucket loads of scouse charm, enough Beatles facts to keep you entertained for days and appearances from Pete Best in certain performances Lennon’s Banjo will leave you grinning from ear to ear while considering lessons in jabberwocky.

On at the Epstein Theatre until Saturday 5th May tickets available here.