Little Miss Sunshine

Written with the help of Hayley Goldsmith

Based on the cult Oscar-winning  film of the same name, Little Miss Sunshine tells of The Hoover family, who are a somewhat dysfunctional family, facing a few troubles. However, young Olive dreams of winning the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest – so when an unexpected invitation to compete arrives, the Hoovers must pile into the old yellow camper van and hit the road. Question is can it survive the 800-mile trip from New Mexico to California – and more importantly, can they?

The Hoovers include a Dad who’s been trying to publish his self-help book since he lost his job, Grandad who still thinks he’s a playboy, depressed uncle who is a teacher but recovering from a failed suicide, son who’s taken a vow of silence as a typical moody teenager that hates everyone, Mum who’s trying to keep it all together but is not sure why. Then the daughter… the kid who rocks to her own beat and doesn’t quite fit in.

These characters work because I think we all have family members we can relate to here, or at least relate in general to our own crazy family quirks that we think no outsiders would understand, so engaging with the characters and their story comes naturally. As an audience, we want it to work out for them and we are always on their side and sympathetic towards each character – this is an ode to the brilliantly talented ensemble cast too.

Labelled as a musical comedy, the first half struggles to quite hit the pace you might be anticipating from the genre as it feels quite slow and meloncholic, with a lot of dark humour, yet it kind of needs to be that way in order for the second act to work and really be appreciated. Of course, there were still a few arguments through song but the pace picked up with the dead body, camp compare, passionate Latino, and fun-to-be-had pageant.

While the music works, and was enjoyable; the other question was whether it would have maybe fitted better as play with music, rather than a musical. The set is fun, and I enjoyed the minimalist feel and physicality. I really enjoyed the clever transition into a flashback scene between the Mum and Dad too.

Fans of the film will likely love it, as it stays pretty close to form. However, even if you haven’t it’s an easy to follow story of an extended family living unhappily under one roof trying to get through each day. If you can handle the slow burning start of a road trip, and wait for the energy to notch up towards the end – it turns out to be a really fun show, full of heart and warmth. After all, who doesn’t want to see a cute kid bringing a family together and stealing the show?

Little Miss Sunshine runs at the New Wolsey Theatre until Saturday 25th May. For more information or to book visit: www.wolseytheatre.co.uk.

Then continues on tour, see www.littlemisssunshinemusical.com for more.