REVIEW: Little Miss Sunshine at Grand Opera House York

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE really shouldn’t work as a musical.

Olive (Evie Gibson) and Mark Moraghan (Grandpa) in Little Miss Sunshine.
Olive (Evie Gibson) and Mark Moraghan (Grandpa) in Little Miss Sunshine.

For starters, it is about a road trip; it’s hard for even the most creative production team to put those wheels into motion in a theatre.

And, unfortunately, as well as William Finn’s songs are performed here, there are too few cascading big numbers to leave you feeling you are in the middle of a great musical.

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Yet, in many ways, it still does work, mainly down to the humour that is laced throughout; this production certainly captures the essence of the wonderful 2006 comedy/drama movie and adds new strands, too. It keeps driving.

A scene from Little Miss Sunshine at York Opera House

Centred around the highly-dysfunctional Hoover family, the story depicts their chaotic bid to get adorable, bespectacled seven-year-old daughter Olive - played with real punch and confidence by Lily-Mae Denman in this production - fully 800 miles across state to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant contest.

But in a battered, old but much-loved VW Camper van that needs a push start, each character running in relay style before jumping in once its on its way.

With a recently suicidal Uncle Frank (Paul Keating), a moody, non-speaking brother (Sev Keoshgerian), the perennially put-upon mum (Lucy O’Byrne) and career troubled dad (Gabriel Vick), it makes for a interesting journey.

However, the scene-stealer - and rightly so - is the hard-living, drug-loving Grandpa, who also doubles-up as Olive’s dance teacher; full of wit and dirty one-liners, but offset with some genuine moments of tenderness, it is a role Mark Moraghan clearly embraces.

Little Miss Sunshine

The Mean Girls, who sporadically appear to tease and torment in the mind of Olive, are suitably… well, mean.

Imelda Warren-Green delivers two classic cameos as an officious, awkward hospital grief aider and a riotously daft Miss California as the pageant comes to life in all its expected tawdriness.

If you enjoyed the film, you will certainly enjoy this.

Evie Gibson plays Olive in Little Miss Sunshine.