Theatre review - Little Miss Sunshine, The Lowry

The Hoover family roadtrip
(c) Manuel Harlan

The Hoover family roadtrip (c) Manuel Harlan - Credit: Archant

Little Miss Sunshine, A Road Musical is pure feel-good fun that won’t let you down

Ian Carlyle and Imelda Warren-Green
Credit: Manuel Harlan

Ian Carlyle and Imelda Warren-Green Credit: Manuel Harlan - Credit: Archant

If you love the film, the stage version of Little Miss Sunshine won't disappoint. It doesn't have the depth of the movie, the 'moral of the story' is a little laboured, and it can feel a little rushed at time, but overall it doesn't suffer for this and there's definite fun to be had with every scene.

It's a complex tale, let's be clear. We have a dysfunctional family that is all pulling if different directions, yet also in the same direction - for Olive, the youngest and happiest and the innocent in the tale.

Olive's mum, Sheryl Hoover, is holding it all together by her fingertips, coping with a son who doesn't speak (he types messages on his mobile phone) a husband who has lost his job and rather than find another, is determined to publish a self-help book (which really isn't going well) and a father-in-law who is living the wild life. Add in the arrival of her brother, sent for supervision while he recovers from a suicide attempt, and you can imagine that the last thing they need is a two day road-trip, all crammed in an ancient VW campervan, across the USA to get little Olive to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. Nevertheless, off they trot - and much hilarity ensues.

This is really the crux of the story: despite the fact that every character is deeply embedded, selfishly occupied, in their own miseries, dreams and obsessions, they all come together for a common cause - Olive. It's sweet and it's strong, though there are moments that could perhaps be given more pathos and less slapstick, to just give us a chance to engage with each character at a little greater depth and build some empathy with their situation. Left too shallow, it's too easy to judge negatively.

There are some superbly memorable scenes from a very strong cast - not least the ensemble players, who have a marvellous time camping their roles to the max. Imelda Warren-Green makes a fabulous bored, yet officious, hospital clerk and then morphs into a bonkers Miss California and gives it the full Mariah Carey - just brilliant! Another worthy of comment is Sophie Hartley Booth, who played Olive in last night's show. She was brilliant and her closing scene - well, if you've seen the movie, it's just what you hope for. If not, you will laugh, I promise.

If you're seeking a light night out, with laughter and storytelling and song, this ticks every box and you will leave smiling.

Until Saturday 1 June: