Little Miss Sunshine (UK Tour): Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Reviewed 31st July 2019
Based on from the Oscar-winning hit film Little Miss Sunshine this European Premiere musical, written by Tony-Award-winners James Lapine and William Finn, follows the unconventional Hoover family as they travel the 800-mile trip from New Mexico to California for young Olive to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest.
The quirky Hoover family are instantly likeable and, whilst their stories are a tad dramatic, the journey they take and the message of being yourself throughout is something the audience will love. The dry, sarcastic humour is witty but sometimes falls flat with the audience which is a shame as the script is actually quite clever. The show moves at a very fast pace which does not allow for the audience to become fully invested in the storyline or develop empathy for the characters. Whilst the songs, written by William Finn, are mostly good unfortunately they are not very memorable. Amongst some of the original songs ‘Something Better Better Happen’ and especially the reprise during the second act really stand out and are performed beautifully. ‘The Happiest Guy in the Van‘, performed hilariously by Mark Moraghan, is certainly a hit with the audience and the finale number ‘Shake Your Badonkadonk‘ definitely raises a smile on everyones faces.
The cast in this production are all talented and perform their roles very well. Sophie Hartley-Booth wins the hearts of the audience as Olive Hoover and, despite her age, has full command of the stage. Gabriel Vick’s strong voice is used to excellent advantage in the touching song ‘What You Left Behind‘. Jaimie Pruden, understudy for Sheryl Hoover, does an excellent job of keeping the family together and her classic style of vocals work opposite Gabriel Vick’s excellently. One aspect of the show which lets the show down is the use of adults being the ‘mean girls’. Probably to do with the constraints of touring with child casts it does really detract from the characters and didn’t match the show.
The brightly coloured set featuring large maps detailing the Hoover’s journey and the use of a revolve, designed by David Woodhead, makes good use of the space and the choreography and timings work well to allow the audience to imagine the clapped out old VW camper van actually being onstage. The clever set-up of neon lights by Richard Williamson is effective and helps to focus the audiences attention on the action taking place onstage.
At points Little Miss Sunshine feels too forced, the acting and direction, particularly by the ensemble members, is too dramatic and as a result it loses some of its heart. Whilst it technically is well performed it lacks impact and is fairly lacklustre. Unfortunately, it is not a memorable show. The production is fun and an easy way to spend two hours but perhaps will not be to everyone’s cup of tea. The humour at times is a bit cringeworthy and some of the topics touched upon are unfortunately skimmed over, much to the detriment of the show. Ultimately it does beg the question of whether a musical version of Little Miss Sunshine is actually needed. Nevertheless the production offers an escape from the everyday hassles and will no doubt show you that your family are actually a lot more ‘normal’ than you thought!
Little Miss Sunshine runs at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury until the 3rd August 2019. For information and tickets click here. It then continues to tour the UK until the 28th September 2019. For further venues and tickets click here.
Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan