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Review Roundup- LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE at the La Jolla Playhouse

March 7
10:28 AM 2011


The Tony Award-winning creative team of composer/lyricist William Finn and writer/director James Lapine, who previously collaborated on the Tony Award-winning musicals Falsettos and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, will bring their latest project to, Little Miss Sunshine to The Playhouse. The production runs through March 27, 2011 in the Mandell Weiss Theatre.

The cast of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE features Hunter Foster Urinetown, Little Shop of Horrors as "Richard Hoover," Malcolm Gets "Caroline in the City," A New Brain, Amour as "Frank Ginsberg,"Georgi James Billy Elliot as "Olive Hoover," Dick Latessa Hairspray as "Grandpa,"Jennifer Laura Thompson Urinetown, Wicked as "Sheryl Hoover" and Taylor Trensch Spring Awakening as "Dwayne Hoover." The ensemble includes Bradley Dean, Carmen Ruby Floyd, Eliseo Roman,Andrew Samonsky, Sally Wilfert and Zakiya Young; and the Pageant Girls include local actresses Felicity Bryant, Sophia Delange, Kishka Grantz and Madi Rae DiPietro.

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Bob Verini, Variety: The sun shines throughout "Little Miss Sunshine," but the necessary darkness is absent. La Jolla's musicalization of the 2006 movie, launching a hoped-for eastward road trip, boasts David Korins' brightly cartoony designs and a typically tinkly William Finn score. Yet no one seems to have noticed how Michael Arndt's Oscar-winning saga of a young girl's odyssey to pageant immortality is fueled by anger, its family dysfunction the product of devastating disappointments. Unless and until librettist-helmer James Lapine raises both stakes and heat, this tuner will remain a limp retread of robust source material.

Welton Jones, There's a temptation here to thank Finn and especially Lapine for what they didn't do. There are opportunities aplenty for bathos and pandering with such ripe material and, indeed, there are such groaners as a little girl asking, "Where is heaven anyway?" as a song cue. But even such a obvious set-up can produce poetry; one of the answers to the question is that heaven is "where people prize what's weird about you."

James Hebert, San Diego Union-Tribute: As "Little Miss Sunshine" eyes the highway to Broadway (note Step 7, "See the Mountaintop"), that element may merit some fleshing-out. While the show's running time of about 2 hours, 40 minutes isn't extravagant by musical standards, the first act also flags a bit, partly because the pieces takes its sweet time establishing the character of Olive (played by the lovable Georgi James), the audience's natural rooting interest.

But there's also plenty to like about the production, starting with David Korins' fetching design scheme, a mix of minimalist whimsy and mid-century modern. His fascination with trapezoids becomes a chief motif, expressed everywhere from the walls of the Hoovers' Albuquerque home to a roadside gas joint (which seems explicitly modeled after a famous one near Palm Springs).

Jay Irwin, BroadwayWorld: If that dream team of a cast wasn't enough, Finn and Lapine wisely gave each of their hysterical ensemble members a moment in the sun. Bradley Dean, Carmen Ruby Floyd, Eliseo Roman, Andrew Samonsky, Sally Wilfert and Zakiya Young each took the small parts they were given and ran with them, almost right out of the theater as each of them brilliantly played the comedic relief to the family's "straight man".



Photo Credit: Craig Schwartz/La Jolla Playhouse







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