The dysfunctional Hoover family are taking the Lowry Quays audience on a road trip from New Mexico to California while sharing their broken, idealistic and waylaid dreams along the way.
We follow parents Richard (Gabriel Vick) and Sheryl (Laura Pitt-Pulford), their teenage son Dwayne (Sev Keoshgerian) and their grandfather (Mark Moraghan), as they rally around their daughter Olive’s (Eve Gibson) dream to win the Little Miss Sunshine child beauty pageant. With the recent addition of Sheryl’s suicidal brother Frank (Paul Keating), together with grandpa’s cocaine addiction and their son's vow of silence, the detached family is forced to stay together opting to drive to California to get Olive to the pageant on time.
Audiences can soak up the summery glow of the intimate Quays theatre as the set dons a fresh floor to ceiling yellow alongside a map of the families routed journey. There are plenty of moving parts added to this musical production, allowing audiences to follow the live band on the second tier of the stage, besides crafty reveals and more theatrical characters. As the Hoovers take off on their coerced trip in a hollowed out, busted minivan, Selladoor Productions transports them in a basic tiered chair set up, exposing the families limited space. Director Mehmet Ergen perfectly plays out the close living quarters of the Hoovers, with pass through walls that allow the audience to feel their claustrophobic life and the palpable tension played out between the unharmonious characters.
Despite initially being bought to the screen in the dry dramedy starring Steve Carell, its stage adaptation is a challenging revamp that flows the melancholy narrative through a supportive soundtrack. The 2006 film offered a handful of memorable musical moments, but the notable gap in pop music makes the films unique ending shine. While illuminating the story for new audiences, this musical adaptation is forced to remove the familiar flashy and sentimental songs associated with the genre. The dreary lives of the Hoovers are naturally uplifted through its tricky adaptation, but the musical accomplishes a new strength and movement through its songs. The mostly seated stage production uses its soundtrack to build on the strength of its beaten-down characters and songs, such as How Have I been? and The Happiest Guy In The Van written by William Finn are enjoyable add ons to the shows painful humour.
Thirteen years after the original release, the simple stories loose themes surrounding sex, suicide, drugs, and the American Dream plays out within the fractured Hoover family and continue to be carried by its engaging ensemble cast. Here, with Gibson at the centre, the cast brings the candid story in an honest musical form as its characters look for reasons to keep chugging along. The musical remains faithful to the tone of its film, centred around finding your place in the ever-growing exclusive world; Little Miss Sunshine is an inspiring journey that should leave the most pessimistic audience member feeling uplifted.