Little Miss Sunshine (4 stars)

Little Miss Sunshine

credit: Richard H Smith

A pageant, a van, and a series of disasters brings a family together

Despite its cheerful title, the 2006 film which has inspired this musical is a darkly comic road trip story that deals with themes such as sexuality, death, drugs, and suicide. It perfected the bittersweet tone between goofy family adventure and outright tragedy: not always the easiest mix for musical theatre.

The plot sees a family of mismatched personalities travel to California so that their youngest, the perpetually delightful Olive (played by Evie Gibson), can participate in a beauty pageant. The opening number, an upbeat tune about how all of our endeavours fail, epitomises the tone of the show. When Gibson's happy, high-pitched voice cuts through the pessimism, it is like a beam of sunshine.

Though a few songs are repetitive or overly long, there are as many that have the same catchy, witty and moving qualities of classic show tunes. A particular highlight is a solo about the joys of sex delivered by Olive's Grandpa (Mark Moraghan). It's not an outdated joke about a bad grandpa, or a cringe-worthy spew of lewd suggestions – it is taboo-breaking and hilarious.

Although most of the performances are strong, Paul Keating's performance as Frank (Olive's gay and depressed uncle) loses the subtlety that made Steve Carell's performance in the film so impactful. As an adaptation its updated script is refreshing. For example, when asked if she knows what gay means, she replies 'duh, Lucy is transgender.' Little Miss Sunshine is a show that knows how to provide summer-time feel-good fun and still respect the intelligence of its audience.

Reviewed at King's Theatre, Glasgow. Now touring.

Little Miss Sunshine

Musical comedy based on the Academy Award winning film Little Miss Sunshine, about a dysfunctional family travelling 800 miles in a old VW camper van to deliver their daughter to a children's beauty pageant.

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