Theatre Review: Little Miss Sunshine Can't Live Up To The Cult Classic Film

Little Miss Sunshine, Arcola Theatre ★★★★☆

Hari Mountford
By Hari Mountford Last edited 62 months ago

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Last Updated 02 April 2019

Theatre Review: Little Miss Sunshine Can't Live Up To The Cult Classic Film Little Miss Sunshine, Arcola Theatre 4
Photo: Manuel Harlan

It's always a risk, making a musical out of what is a hands-down bloody fabulous movie. And unlike the film there are no big-names to draw the crowds in — sure, the 2006 film was an independent production, but starred a post 40 Year Old Virgin Steve Carrell. This is no West End affair: directed by Mehmet Ergen and with music and lyrics by the talented William Finn, this play runs at Dalston's intimate 200 seater Arcola Theatre.

The story follows a dysfunctional family — featuring a mute brother, suicidal uncle, cocaine snorting grandpa, unhappily married parents and a downright lovable little girl, Olive — on their eventful journey to California's children's beauty pageant, Little Miss Sunshine. As always, it's the journey, not the destination that counts — traveling in an ageing VW van, which needs pushing to start, the family don't have an easy ride. The MapBitch (satnav) is a pain, Grandpa can't stop singing about sex, and Dwayne, the mute brother... won't talk.

Photo: Manuel Harlan

Quite the extent to which it is politically correct to let young girls squat drop, swear, and watch characters consume Class A drugs is questionable, but that's all part of the show's outrageousness. In any case, despite the perfectly turned out young girls, this is not one to take the kids to. Although there are a few Olives in rotation, on press night, the main part of Olive was played by the oh-so-cute Sophie Hartley-Booth, who put on a flawless performance. She's not alone, even the periphery figures stand out — Imelda Warren-Green as both Linda and Miss California brought tears to the eyes of many an audience member.

Some of the music is quite clever, sprinkled with recurring motifs, and a couple of hilarious numbers that have you laughing out loud. A lot of the songs, however, are non-descript, rambling in nature and easily forgotten as soon as they are finished. The songs the 'Mean Girls' — Olive's pageant competitors — sing, are especially grating.

Certainly not a perfect production, but one that will get you laughing. Little Miss Sunshine is a welcome evening of entertainment.

Little Miss Sunshine, Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, E8 3DL, £10. Until 11 May.