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Little Miss Sunshine - Haymarket Theatre, Leicester - Review

The musical adaptation of the 2006 Academy Award-winning movie, Little Miss Sunshine, arrives in Leicester. Written by Tony Award winners James Lapine and William Finn this new production is an enjoyable road trip ride following the dysfunctional Hoover family as they journey across America in a rickety camper van for the Little Miss Sunshine Beauty Pageant.
Sev Keoshgerian (Dwayne), Paul Keating (Frank), Lucy O'Byrne (Sheryl),
Gabriel Vick (Richard). Photo by Richard H Smith
It's a hugely likeable production with an uplifting and very funny script. This is a show that wears its heart on its sleeve. The songs by Lapine and Finn are enjoyable but sadly unforgettable, at times they feel like an extended dialogue rather than musical numbers. A great sounding 6 piece band under the musical direction of Arlene McNaught does play superbly throughout the performance.

All the characters, except for young Olive who simply seeks the title of the beauty pageant, are flawed. Dad, Richard, is hoping for his self-help book to be published. Mum, Sheryl, worried about the mountaing debts and lack of affection from her husband. Sheryl's brother, Frank, recovering from a suicide attempt after his partner leaves him. Olive's older brother, Dwayne, now choosing to be mute dreams of being a fighter pilot. Finally, Grandpa who will settle for some for new porn to enjoy.

The acting company are terrific playing at bringing out all those flaws Mark Moraghan has the standout number in the first act, a riotously funny number about his sex obsession, he is hilarious and instantly likeable. Lucy O'Byrne glows as the vulnerable mother, a fine young actress who boasts a lovely vocal range. Another superb vocal performance comes from Gabriel Vick as dad, Richard. Lucy and Gabriel interact brilliantly together.

Mark Moraghan (Grandpa), Gabriel Vick (Richard) and Lucy O'Byrne
(Sheryl). Photo by Richard H Smith
Paul Keating is touching as Frank. You can feel the heartbreak he's been through that led him to his suicide attempt. There's a particularly moving scene with Paul's Frank and Sev Keoshgerian's Dwayne that deals with self-harm. Sophie Hartley-Booth gives a tremendous performance as Olive. She's delightfully sweet and it's an assured performance for someone so young.

There's also terrific supporting performances by Matthew McDonald, Ian Carlyle and a magnificent show-stealing performance by Imelda Warren-Green. Alicia Belgarde, Elena Christie and Scarlet Roche all shine as the three mean girls and as other the beauty pageant contestants

The design with sets and costumes by David Woodhead and lighting by Richard Williamson are mostly visually great. The staging of the van using a revolve is a clever move although the kitchen chairs certainly don't have the wow factor.

This a hugely enjoyable production with a tremendous cast. It's very funny and uplifting. This is one road trip worth getting a ticket to ride along with.

Rating: ★★★★

Little Miss Sunshine continues at the Leicester Haymarket Theatre until Saturday 7th September. To book click here. There's 3 more venues left for the tour too, Cardiff, Aberdeen and Liverpool visit for more information.

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