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.