Summer might be over, but for visitors to Cardiff’s New Theatre, the outlook is sunny, as the musical Little Miss Sunshine takes audiences to feelgood climates this weekend.
Based on the film of the same name, Little Miss Sunshine follows the story of The Hoover family, a family that has more than its share of troubles including a suicidal uncle, a grandfather still very much in touch with his mis-spent youth and a teenager who has taken a vow of silence until he reaches his ambition of becoming an air-jet pilot.
The youngest member of the family, Olive, has her heart set on winning the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest. So, when an invitation to compete comes out of the blue, the Hoovers pile into their rickety, yellow camper van to embark on an 800-mile trip from New Mexico to California. A trip that will ensure each member of the family faces their individual fears but also an opportunity to overcome them.
William Finn’s refreshingly original score comes magically to life via the cast’s strong vocal performances and music direction from Arlene McNaught, while Anthony Whiteman’s energetic choreography keeps the shows pace up to speed with the music and dialogue.
Although the set design is inspired by a road map, it is also minimalistic in presentation. The majority of the first act sees the Hoover family embark on their road trip. Itself, an entertaining journey featuring a make-shift van on a revolving stage, as the family embark on funny exchanges and entertaining songs.
Lucy O’Byrne and Gabriel Vick are Sheryl and Richard Hoover, a couple at odds with each other in their personal relationship, but united in trying to help their children pursue their dreams. Miss O’Byrne brings a no-nonsense element to Sheryl, which occasionally borders on comedy when imparting the truth of various situations. Miss O’Byrne’s vocal talents feature prominently throughout the production, my favourite been Something Better Better Happen at the conclusion of act one.
Gabriel Vick’s portrayal of Richard unfurls deeper emotions as the musical progresses. The audience are not only exposed to Richard’s short comings but also an emotive lament to his lost father with a memorable performance of What You Left Behind.
Mark Moraghan gives an entertainingly energised portrayal of Grandpa Hoover. Moraghan’s portrayal is a pleasure to watch, particularly when he reveals much of Grandpa’s outlook on life via a cheeky rendition of The Happiest Guy In the Van.
Paul Keating brings strength and believability to the fragile Uncle Frank, overcoming his emotive instability and finding a bond with silent nephew, Dwayne, portrayed here with a brilliant surliness by Sev Keoshgerian.
Sophie Hartley Booth combines cuteness and fun with occasional feistiness in her portrayal of Olive. The feistiness adds to the believability as Olive overcomes her inner doubts in the form of three mean girls (played with cheek by Scarlet Roche, Elena Christie and Alicia Belgarde) and even takes on the beauty pageant judge for a rendition of Shake Your Badonkadonk.
Little Miss Sunshine also features strong support from Matthew McDonald, Ian Carlyle and Imelda Warren-Green who add extra comedy to many of the scenes. Their finest moments arrive in the Beauty Pageant scene, in which Miss Warren-Green and Mr Carlyle deliver some side-splitting comic exchanges between the show judge and Miss California.
Grounded in gritty realism with identifiable characterisations, Little Miss Sunshine packs in the extra reality punch to reward the audience with genuine belly laughs and a long-lasting feelgood factor!
Don’t miss the show before the sun goes down on the final performance on Saturday!