Little Miss Sunshine is like a good lemon meringue pie: light and sweet, but with a tiny touch of acid and just a hint of bitterness to lift the flavour.
A stage musical adaptation of the 2006 film, the story tracks the dysfunctional Hooper family as they slowly, but charmingly, fall apart on a 500-mile road trip. Squeezing a playboy grandad, a suicidal Proust scholar, a disillusioned wife and the rest into a tin can for a couple of days was never going to end well, but it was always going to be fun to watch.
The story and characters follow fairly true to the film but the show fully stands on its own feet. The setting clearly lends itself to the stage, as of course it really is all about the characters and their interactions. Happily, the cast pull off the array of characters very well indeed.
Mr Hooper (Gabriel Vick) treads just the right line between hopeful and desperate as his book deal starts coming undone. Grandpa Hoover (Mark Moraghan) is lovably inappropriate and appropriately loving. Playing gay man Uncle Frank, Paul Keating keeps it camp without just being shallowly flamboyant. Special mention of course has to go to our Little Miss Sunshine, Olive (Sophie Hartley-Booth), who is cute, funny, forthright and perfect in the role.
Though perhaps not Le Mis-style epics, the songs are appropriate to the scenes and don’t feel crammed in like I feared they would. Not one song is super memorable, and just occasionally there was a slide from singing to shouting, but the big numbers do very much hit the spot, fully delivering that wonderful high emotion.
As a piece Little Miss Sunshine worked well. It was by turns funny, touching, uplifting and dark. Good direction kept the pace up, the show seemed to fly by and, before we knew it, we were back out in the warm night air smiling our way to the car. It may not change your world, but the show will certainly deliver a great evening out.