Little Miss Sunshine
Reviewed – 1st April 2019
“Mehmet Ergen directs the show with a freshness and inventiveness that allows the versatile and talented cast to sparkle”
What a treat this is. Turning a successful film into a stage musical isn’t an easy task, but this production by Selladoor manages it wonderfully. The story is true to the original and if you are wondering how the small Arcola stage can accommodate a VW van, a motel, a hospital and a Beauty Pageant, go and see it purely for the ingenuity of David Woodhead’s design.
This is one of those evenings at the theatre that has the audience buzzing and leaving the theatre with huge smiles. Some will also have a tune in their head, as there are some truly memorable songs (William Finn) in the show. The cast are excellent; this is a real ensemble piece where everyone gets a chance to shine, even those with smaller roles, such as Imelda Warren-Green who personified the old adage that there is no such thing as a small part with hilarious performances as Linda and Miss California.
For those not familiar with the film (written by Michael Arndt), the story is about the Hoover family; a rather dysfunctional tribe, who drive from New Mexico to California so that their daughter Olive can enter a children’s beauty pageant. Olive, played this evening by Sophie Hartley Booth was the heart and soul of the show. She was hilarious, sweet and utterly captivating. Her performance in the talent competition brought the house down. Three other children, Ellicia Simondwood, Yvie Bent and Elodie Salmon played the Mean Girls, both the voices in Olive’s head that tell her she isn’t good enough and the other competitors in the beauty pageant. And delightfully mean they were.
The rest of the family each have their problems. Paul Keating played Frank, the gay uncle who has unsuccessfully tried to kill himself, with a gentle sureness of hand. Gary Wilmot’s scandalous grandpa is living on the sofa. He loves to shock, yet has real warmth and Wilmot brought a gorgeous tongue in cheek style to the role. Sev Keoshgerian managed to be very funny, characterful and convincing as Dwayne, Olive’s brother, even during the majority of the show when he doesn’t say a word. The parents, Richard and Sheryl, played by Gabriel Vick and Laura Pitt-Pulford are broke and struggling. Gabriel is optimistic about his ‘ten point plan for success,’ and expecting a book deal that never comes, but despite all the setbacks and obstacles, the family are determined to get Olive to the pageant. Pitt-Pulford sang ‘Something Better Better Happen’ with such genuine emotion that it brought a tear to the eye, and Vick’s ‘What You Left Behind’ was powerful and touching. They felt like a real family, each individually falling apart but coming together in the face of their difficulties; pushing the van to get it started, determined to finish the journey.
The two other cast members are Ian Carlyle and Matthew McDonald, who both take on a couple of contrasting roles. Carlyle is outrageously loud as the wonderfully dreadful pageant host, and equally good as the man who stole Frank’s lover. McDonald also convinces, both as the ex-lover and as the long suffering technical guy at the pageant.
Mehmet Ergen directs the show with a freshness and inventiveness that allows the versatile and talented cast to sparkle. There is a stunning live band above the stage (Musical Director Arlene McNaught) that perform their hearts out for every number. The perfect package is completed with great sound (Olly Steel) and lighting (Richard Williamson) throughout and some excellent choreography (Anthony Whiteman).
If Little Miss Sunshine gets a West End transfer, and it deserves to get one, I will be happy to say that I saw it in this smaller, more intimate space. Do go, if you can. The whole thing is a joy.
Reviewed by Katre
Photography by Manuel Harlan
Little Miss Sunshine
Arcola Theatre until 11th May
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Final casting is today announced for the world première of a major new musical, “The Braille Legacy”, the thrilling, true, inspirational and epic story of Louis Braille, a young blind boy who wanted the same chance in life as those who see and ended up improving the lives of millions of blind people around the world.
It is being directed by acclaimed director Thom Southerland (”Ragtime”, “Titanic”, “Grey Gardens”, “Death Takes A Holiday”) and will première at Charing Cross Theatre (Artistic Director Thom Southerland, Managing Director Steven M. Levy) from Monday 10 April to Saturday 24 June.
Joining previously announced Olivier Award nominated Jérôme Pradon (West End credits include the UK premiere of the musical “Women On The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”, Guillaume in “Martin Guerre”, Chris in “Miss Saigon”, Javert in “Les Miserables”, and Judas in the Emmy-winning video of “Jesus Christ Superstar”) are:
Jason Broderick (“Godspell” UK tour, “Anna Nicole – The Opera” Royal Opera House); Tate-Eliot Drew (“My Lands Shore” Ye Olde Rose N Crown Theatre); Will Haswell (“Jersey Boys” West End, Pinocchio in ‘Shrek the Musical” UK tour); Lottie Henshall (“Doctors” BBC1); Sarah-Marie Maxwell (“She Loves Me” Menier Chocolate Factory, “Top Hat” UK tour); Matthew McDonald (“Death Takes a Holiday” Charing Cross Theatre, “Allegro” Southwark Playhouse); Kate Milner-Evans (“Showboat” West End, Carlotta in “The Phantom of the Opera”); Janet Mooney (West End includes “Les Miserables” and “Love Never Dies”); Ceili O’Connor (“Grand Hotel” Southwark Playhouse, “Evita” UK tour); Michael Remick (West End includes “Dirty Dancing” and “The Sound of Music”); Ashley Stillburn (Corrado in “Death Takes A Holiday” Charing Cross Theatre, “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Les Miserables” West End); Jack Wolfe (is making his professional stage debut as Louis Braille); and a child cast featuring Guillermo Bedward, Thomas Brown, Tallulah Byrne, Beau Cripps, Ilan Galkoff, Honey Harrison-Maw, Eliz Hassan, Megan Haynes, Zachary Loonie, Mimi Slinger, Ophir Fifi Tal, William Thompson.
“The Braille Legacy” is the story of a revolution and an heroic fight for independence, with the themes of difference, freedom, hope and love and the triumph of human values over adversity.
In Paris in the 19th century, blind people were victims of profound discrimination. Louis Braille, a bright young mind with a mad dream, arrives at the Royal Institute of Blind Youth, searching for the same chance as everyone else: to be free and independent. But he soon discovers that people and things aren’t always what they first seem. By sheer determination and courage he stumbles upon something revolutionary: a simple idea, a genius invention, a legacy. Two hundred years ago, Louis Braille changed the world by inventing the tactile system of communication, the Braille alphabet, liberating the “People of the Night” and introducing literacy, knowledge and culture to a people who were otherwise trapped. It was their journey into the light.
“The Braille Legacy” has an original French Book and Lyrics by Sébastien Lancrenon, Music by Jean-Baptiste Saudray, with an English translation by Ranjit Bolt. Music Supervision and Orchestrations are by Simon Lee.
The full creative team is: Director: Thom Southerland, Music Supervision and Orchestrations: Simon Lee, Musical Director Toby Higgins, Choreographer Lee Proud, Set Designer: Tim Shortall, Lighting Designer Tim Lutkin, Costume Designer: Jonathan Lipman, Sound Designer: Andrew Johnson, Casting: Stephen Crockett at Grindrod Casting, Children’s Casting: Jo Hawes, Music Preparation: Simone Manfredini, Associate Director Rupert Hands.
The Braille Legacy Ltd by arrangement with
Colbert Entertainment Ltd present
The Braille Legacy
Monday 10 April to Saturday 24 June
Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm
Matinees Wednesday at 2.30pm
and Saturday at 3.00pm
Saturday 27 May at 3.00pm
Monday 29 May at 7.30pm
Premium seats £39.50
Premium seats are best stalls locations,
and include a programme and a glass of
London WC2N 6NL