Review: Little Miss Sunshine @ The Lowry, Salford

Little Miss Sunshine brightened the entire room’s spirits on opening night at the Lowry, bringing just as much charm and character to the stage as it did on the big screen.

Based on the much-loved movie starring Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell and Toni Collette, the musical follows the same plot.

The audience watched as the rather dysfunctional Hoover family came together to drive the youngest, Olive, from Albuquerque to California for the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant.

The bright yellow set and revolving circle in the centre of the stage worked simplistically to reflect the intended feel-good factor and the unstoppable Hoover family as they drove their way across America.

From the very beginning, Arlene McNaught’s musical direction sent rays of beautiful harmonies into the crowd as the cast worked their way through William Finn’s score.

The songs had a Sondheim quality, with fast-paced, talkative lyrics that ended in resolving suspensions, echoing the tensions in the family whilst simultaneously showing the incredulous amount of love that so obviously existed between them.

Mark Moraghan, who played Grandpa Hoover, had the audience crying with laughter during his solo number, The Happiest Guy In The Van, where he advised his step-grandson, Dwayne, to have sex to be content with life.

Lucy O’Byrne must also be commended for her strong vocals that remained consistent throughout and formed a concrete rock for the rest of the cast, just as her character, Sheryl, was for the Hoover family.

Beginning Act 2 with the announcement of the death of Grandpa Hoover, the mood was sombre but swiftly deterred back into comedy as Imelda Warren-Green made her first entrance as Linda, the bereavement councillor. Without even opening her mouth, Warren-Green shone bright with her commanding presence on stage.

She appeared soon after as Miss California at the beauty pageant where each laugh from the audience seemed to spur her on more. Warren-Green’s facial expressions went far beyond entertaining and her vocals were high class.

The highly-anticipated performance of Olive at the pageant did not disappoint and without giving away any spoilers, as soon as we learned that her grandfather had helped her with the choreography, it was clear that it would not be what anyone was expecting.

With beams permanently etched on our faces from start to finish, the audience were totally immersed in the music and the characters.

Despite being about taking a child to a beauty pageant, Little Miss Sunshine is far from superficial or conceited. The musical shows that despite personal and relationship problems, a family is a family and with love in the equation, nothing else matters.

*Little Miss Sunshine is showing at The Lowry, Salford until Saturday, June 1. You can buy tickets HERE.

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