BWW REVIEW: Big Screen Hits Don't Always Translate To The Stage As Shown in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
Thursday 14th November 2019, 7:30pm New Theatre
New Theatre presents William Finn (Music and Lyrics) and James Lapine's (Book) adaptation of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' multi award winning movie LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. Ultimately hampered by a weak book and music, Director Deborah Jones attempts to push start this musical that has even less energy than the broken-down VW Van at the centre of the road trip story.
Many hit movies have been successfully translated to stage musicals and with the creative clout that Finn and Lapine, who previously collaborated on the Tony Award winning Falsettos, bring to the adaptation of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, one would expect similar success but unfortunately this road trip story fails to arrive safely. The premise of the story is that the bright and chirpy Olive (Kiera Dzeparoski), who is an average child, harbours aspirations of becoming a beauty queen, a dream supported by her rebellious heroine snorting Grandpa (John Grinston). When the Albuquerque finalist drops out Olive gets the call up to attend the "Little Miss Sunshine" pageant 806 miles away in Redondo Beach. Unable to afford airfare for mum Sheryl (Fiona Pearson) and Olive, the whole family choose to pile into Grandpa's unreliable old VW van for the road trip. In addition to discontented wife and mother Sheryl, Grandpa and Olive the yellow van also contains Olive's unemployed self-help obsessed father Richard (Martin Grelis), self-imposed mute emo wannabe fighter pilot brother Dwayne (Christopher O'Shea) and depressed middle aged uncle Frank (Julian Ramundi) who still sports bandaged wrists from the hospital he was recently discharged from. With family arguments and several setbacks, including the untimely death of Grandpa (oddly changed to Cancer for the musical), the family make their slow and tedious trek from New Mexico to California.The adaptation whittles down the characters to two dimensional beige stereotypes therefore not giving the cast much to work with. The staging is staid and relies on a lot of 'stand and deliver' direction which further alienates the already hard to like characters. There is too much repetition of the limited physicality with the central prop of the VW van a little intuitive movement to the point that that the children consoling Sheryl on Grandpa's passing is painfully contrived and lacks any inkling of sincerity. The sound balance of the off-stage three-piece band and the unamplified voices often has the vocals drowned out, loosing vital text and forcing voices to strain beyond their capabilities. Of the leading cast, the strongest performances come from Kiera Dzeparoski and John Grinston who manage a degree of honesty and realism in their expression Olive and Grandpa. With the other leading cast already hampered by weak characters, the bright moments of the show actually come from the minor characters of the 'Mean Girls' trio (Grace Ryan, Aneke Golowenko and Ellacoco Hammer McIver) and Sarah Furnari's 'Map Bitch' and 'Linda the hospital administrator'.
As with the reviews of this musical's Off-Broadway season, probably best to keep your memories of the movie untainted.
Photos: Bob Seary