Above: The Hoover family and right - Annie Delioglanis and Brendan Dieckmann
Little Miss Sunshine
Book by James Lapine
Music and Lyrics by William Fin
Directed by Bradley Chapman
Presented by Phoenix Ensemble
Season: from 31 January to February 22. Bookings: phoenixensemble.com.au or phone (07) 3103 1546
I really enjoyed Little Miss Sunshine—it was an absolute riot, laugh a minute, feel good show. It wasted no time on an overture but got straight into introducing the members of the Hoover family with Way of the World.
The Hoovers are a typical dysfunctional family to the enth degree. Father, Richard, is unemployed and trying to launch his ‘ten steps to life’ book; Mother, Sheryl, has had just about all she can take and is at the end of her tether; Grandpa’s bad behaviour has seen him kicked out of the retirement home; Uncle Frank has just come out of hospital after an attempted suicide following an unrequited love; and the Hoover’s eldest, Dwayne, has taken a vow of silence until his parents sign off on him going to learn to be a jet pilot. The youngest Hoover, Olive, was the bright light in this otherwise bleak family existence.
It was not a large cast, but everyone was exceptional and the family members melded together really well. Olive (Eva Rose McMurray) has been entering beauty pageants in her local area and gets the chance to compete in LA, because the winner of the local contest was disqualified for using slimming pills.
For the First Time in My Life sung by Olive and the Mean Girls (Cadance Goodreid, Tia Godbold, Ainslie Ryan and Neia Oliphant), introduces us to her anxieties about winning the competition, which of course, the Mean Girls think highly unlikely that someone of her ilk could pull it off. This foursome was very good with quite a resume between them all at such a young age.
This leads to the whole family being bundled into a yellow combi van for the long road trip from Alberquerque to California. Unfortunately, the van has also seen better days, and breaks down about a third of the way into the trip. This set up some absolutely hilarious scenes of the family switching places around the van to get it going again and running alongside to be pulled back on board once it was running.
As can be expected, with family members in such close proximity in a confined space, patience starts wearing thin. However, Grandpa (Chris Catherwood) tells them all how to get as happy as he was with The Happiest Guy in the Van (due to his ‘more than one woman in every port’ philosophy). Chris was great as the naughty grandpa, with the opening scenes of him snorting coke, quite unexpected. Unfortunately, this leads to his demise by the end of Act 1, however eliciting the biggest laughs at the comical solution at the hospital so the family can make it to the pageant on time.
Richard (Michael Ware) did not want to talk about the problems everyone was having and kept trying to keep the adult talk to a minimum in front of Olive. His duet with Sheryl (Samara Marinelli) Always Make Me Proud was a flashback to a younger Richard and Sheryl, where they are thinking about the future. This leads into Sheryl’s despair Something Better Better Happen. Michael and Samara complement each other well on stage.
Dwayne (Blake Omundson) was texting everyone answers to their phones whenever they speak to him and played the sullen teenager to a tee. Uncle Frank (Dom Bradley) opens up to Olive after frank questions from her about why he tried to take his own life. How Have I Been is an extremely funny song where he happens to meet up with his ‘lover’ Joshua and his new lover, Larry, in the gas station toilet. Dom really played this character well.
The whole road adventure eventually brings the show to a climax where they managed to get to the pageant just in time to sign Olive in. The grand finale song, which was an absolute hoot, brings down the house, with the MC trying to get Olive off the stage with the threat of disqualifying her, and the family joining her on the stage singing Shake Your Badonkadonk.
The stage had been delightfully decorated with children’s drawings right across the back wall and on the two side panels, and as a parent pointed out, the children had actually drawn them, with the adults redrawing the ones that were higher up (for safety reasons). Tables and chairs were all on castors and the chairs were cleverly choreographed into the numbers and became the combi van.
The costumes were well suited to all the characters and the four mean girls and Olive had the most costume changes, particularly at the end, as the mean girls also doubled as the other four contestants Olive was competing against.
One of the many highlights in the show for me was the song Little Miss Sunshine Pageant Theme sung by the MC Buddy (Brendan Dieckmann) and Miss California (Annie Delioglanis). The pair of them compete singing wise for top ‘queen’ of the stage, totally ignoring the contestants.
Musical Director, Benjamin Tubb-Hearne and Director, Bradley Chapman, have a winner on their hands with this show.