BWW Review: LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, Theatre Royal Brighton
The 2011 musical adaption of the 2006 Academy Award-winning film Little Miss Sunshine comes to the stage in a hilarious and heart-warming production. The show is currently making a stop at Brighton Theatre Royal as part of a UK tour directed by Mehmet Ergen.
Little Miss Sunshine follows the Hoover family on an epic 800-mile road trip in a yellow VW minivan from New Mexico to California so that the clan's youngest, Olive, can participate in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest. Family tensions rise to the surface in this dark yet uplifting comedy.
Sophie Hartley Booth, playing the role at this particular performance, is delightful as Olive, with the right balance of sass and sweetness. Sev Keoshgerian fully embodies a moody and disenfranchised teenager as Olive's older brother, Dwayne.
Lucy O'Byrne is captivating as their overworked mother, Sheryl. She delivers a fine performance, particularly in her more reflective moments on stage.
Her brother, Frank (Paul Keating), an academic recovering from a suicide attempt and staying with his family, performs in a suitably sensitive and erratic manner.
Gabriel Vick plays Richard, the well-meaning, if overly-honest, ambitious father of the Hoover troupe. His father, played by Mark Moraghan, gives a rousing performance as cheeky grandpa, with some of the most eyebrow-raising lines of the show.
Alicia Belgarde, Elena Christie and Scarlet Roche are disgustingly saccharine as Olive's competition, cleverly scripted to pop up in Olive's consciousness as she approaches the pageant.
Nods are also due to Matthew McDonald, Imelda Warren-Green and Ian Carlyle for their various character roles which garner many laughs from the audience - notably Warren-Green as Linda the receptionist and a former Miss California winner who has the audience giggling away.
The book by James Lapine mostly stays true to the original film plot with William Finn's songs expanding on aspects of the road trip conversation. The score is up-tempo mainly, boppy and exciting, delivered with only the slightest wobble from the cast, but there are also some more poignant moments in the show.
The arrangements, performed brilliantly by the band led by Musical Director, Arlene McNaught, are particularly rousing when the family need to push the minivan to get it into gear.
Lively choreography by Anthony Whiteman makes good use of movement to depict the tension of catching a runaway minivan and is wise to vary the blocking of driving scenes, given the majority of the show takes place in the van.
David Woodhead's design has the stage awash in a sea of sunshine yellow, which brings a true brightness to the show. The minimal set pieces allow the space to transform from a family table to the minivan - although the omission of a steering wheel and any attempt to mime it seemed odd like the family was being chauffeured to California.
The characters fit their costumes like a glove, from Dwayne in dark casuals to Olive decked out in a rainbow tutu. Woodhead's pageant costumes are suitably over-the-top and really add to the plethora of colour on stage.
Richard Williamson's lighting design amplifies the warm yellow hue on the stage, and the odd neon hotel sign really adds to the tale in transit.
Little Miss Sunshine is a gem of a show, a feel-good musical done well. Whether you've seen the film or not, this uplifting show will make you gasp and giggle at the antics of the Hoover family.
Little Miss Sunshine at Theatre Royal Brighton until 15 June and then continues on tour
Photography credit: Theatre Royal Brighton