The irony of Little Miss Sunshine is that as a musical it does work. The whole wonderful story pans out in full technicolor glory, the Hoovers dysfunctional family as exposed as a flasher’s mac.

The story-line would be unbelievable – a family’s race across America to get to a children’s beauty pageant in a broken down van, in which someone dies, another has just committed suicide, one is mute and a marriage breaks down – it is like a soap opera on speed, was it not for the hugely relatable themes running throughout – ambition, disappointment, lust, grief and yes love.

But for those of us who have watched the Oscar-winning cult road movie, which made up the majority of the audience, it was always a gamble. Because so perfect is the film, that it seemed almost sacrilegious to tamper with it.

A great night out, a fun and clever adaption and a feel-good addition to the Oxford Playhouse summer schedule. You’ll enjoy it.

That said, this is definitely a musical, there’s no mistaking it, the first all singing-all dancing number kicking in almost before the curtain goes up.

And they’ve got the cast to support it. Lucy O’Byrne (Evita, Sound of Music, Fiddler On The Roof, you name it she’s done it) is the suitably harassed and worn down mum Sheryl, Mark Moraghan (Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Holby City etc) is a larger-then-life and unashamedly disgraceful Grandpa Hoover, and so the list goes on.

The lead is the youngest daughter Olive, the beauty pageant wannabe, who steals the show, played perfectly by Sophie Hartley-Booth.

Unlike the film, she is given more nuance – peer pressure, bullying, image consciousness – enabling a likeable #MeToo relevant pre-pubescent character to emerge. It’s a shame that due to the 14+ age guidance, more girls her age won’t see it, because Olive has some empowering messages to impart.

Together with a simple set, great compositions and huge enthusiasm, the Hoover clan take us to New Mexico, via lots of laughter, tragedy and domesticity. It is after all depicting family-life and its endless compromises, challenges and personality clashes.

The adult theme comes largely courtesy of Grandpa Hoover, and his love of sex, porn and cocaine, which unsurprisingly finishes him off altogether. But it’s refreshing to have his view on life aired so openly.

The grande finale, largely aided by pageant compere Larry (Ian Carlyle), former Californian beauty queen Imelda Warren Green, and the under appreciated comedic turn from firm favourite Matthew McDonald, strengthened the second half considerably.

A great night out, a fun and clever adaption and a feel-good addition to the Oxford Playhouse summer schedule. You’ll enjoy it.

Little Miss Sunshine is on until Saturday.

Box office at oxford or 01865 305305.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here