I was delighted to receive an invitation to watch the musical Little Miss Sunshine at The Grand Opera House York. It has been a while since I have visited the theatre to watch a show aimed at adults and I couldn’t wait to take my friend along for a long overdue girls’ night out together.
The musical adaptation of Little Miss Sunshine was created by the Tony Award-winning team of James Lapine (who collaborated with Stephen Sondheim on Into the Woods and Sunday in the Park with George) and William Finn (25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Falsettos). It is based on the Oscar-winning film Little Miss Sunshine by Michael Arndt which was released in 2006. As you may know if you’ve seen it, it’s a comedy-drama road story of drug addiction, sexuality, suicide, family, body image, and fitting in. Now after a smash-hit run in London the show is on the road touring the country.
The story is focused on the Hoover family from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The family is made up of worn-out and worried mum, Sheryl (Lucy O’Byrne) and out-of-work but seemingly confident dad, Richard (Gabriel Vick), who is chasing his dream of having his self-help book published. After a positive start to their relationship they are now struggling to make things work between them amid the pressures of mounting debts. They have rather moody teenage son, Dwayne (Sev Keoshgerian), who is Sheryl’s son from a previous relationship. Dwayne has taken a vow of silence until he can accomplish his dream of becoming a test pilot and finally getting away from the family home. Richard and Sheryl also have a young daughter, Olive (role shared by Sophie Hartley Booth, Evie Gibson and Lily Mae Denman), a sweet little thing who is an aspiring beauty queen, but she struggles with lapses in confidence. Also living with the family is Uncle Frank (Paul Keating) who has come to stop with them temporarily after attempting suicide when his male partner left him. And then there is the wildly eccentric Grandad (Mark Moraghan), who not your typical pensioner. He moved in after being kicked out of his retirement village for snorting heroine!
The adventure begins after young Olive finishes as runner up in a local beauty pageant. A twist of fate presents an exciting opportunity for her to go on and represent Albuquerque in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant in California in two days time. The family are determined to get their young daughter to the pageant to fulfill her dreams and so they embark on the 800-mile road trip in their clapped-out yellow VW bus. However, predictably, it is going to be a bumpy ride!
Having not seen the film Little Miss Sunshine, this was the first time I had heard this story. I found the show to be quirky, heartfelt and sometimes dark in places, but overall it is hilarious and uplifting. My friend and I thought it was brilliantly acted, the cast really are amazingly talented, and it was packed with fabulous songs that got you bopping along. There were some real comedy moments and some near tear-jerking moments as the highs and lows of the journey played out. Although the eccentric characters have their flaws (except the adorable Olive) they are all completely loveable and I sensed a real buzz around the theatre as everyone willed the family on as each set back befell them. It was testament that the show culminated in rapturous applause.
The Grand Opera House York is a Grade II listed building with a splendid interior but yet it feels intimate and cosy. It was the perfect setting to watch Little Miss Sunshine. The show makes fantastic use of a single set design and is highly effective in using lighting and a limited selection of props to show the location changes. We thought it was really cleverly done.
We had a fabulous time and I can definitely recommend Little Miss Sunshine the musical for a fun night out with friends or your partner.
Please note that accessibility-wise there are a number of narrow corridors and steep steps in the theatre that are very crowded before the show and on exiting afterwards. It would be a good idea to ring the theatre and discuss any accessibility requirements with them before you book your tickets.
Little Miss Sunshine is showing in York until Saturday 8th June 2019 and then moves on to Brighton so book quickly if you’d like to see it! If you are not local to York, why not check out the tour dates at the bottom of this post to see when the show is coming to your region?
Grand Opera House York are offering 14- 26 year olds Little Miss Sunshine tickets for £10 plus a free drink. All they need to do is mention SUNSHINE10 when booking (be that online, in the box office or on the phone) to receive this offer.
Press tickets courtesy of Grand Opera House York* in exchange for this review. See what’s on and book tickets for upcoming shows at Grand Opera House York on the ATG website*. Links marked with * are affiliate links: I earn a small commission from any sales made through these links, at no extra cost to you.
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE 2019 TOUR DATES
Tuesday 4 – Saturday 8 June Grand Opera House, York
Box Office: 0844 871 3024 Website: www.atgtickets.com/york
Tuesday 11 – Saturday 15 June Theatre Royal, Brighton
Box Office: 0844 871 7650 Website: www.atgtickets.com/brighton
Tuesday 18 – Saturday 22 June Alhambra Theatre, Bradford
Box Office: 01274 432000 Website: www.bradford-theatres.co.uk
Tuesday 25 – Saturday 29 June New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Box Office: 0844 871 7645 Website: www.atgtickets.com/woking
Tuesday 2 – Saturday 6 July Kings Theatre, Glasgow
Box Office: 0844 871 7648 Website: www.atgtickets.com/glasgow
Tuesday 16 – Saturday 20 July New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
Box Office: 0844 871 3011 Website: www.atgtickets.com/birmingham
Tuesday 30 July – Saturday 3 August Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Box Office: 01227 787778 Website: www.marlowetheatre.com
Tuesday 6 – Saturday 10 August Blackpool Opera House
Box Office: 0844 856 1111 Website: www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk
Tuesday 27 – Saturday 31 August Malvern Theatre
Box Office: 01684 892277 Website: www.malvern-theatres.co.uk
Tuesday 3 – Saturday 7 September Leicester Haymarket Theatre
Box Office: 0116 296 1236 Website: www.haytheatre.com
Tuesday 17 – Saturday 21 September His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen
Box Office: 01224 641122 Website: www.aberdeenperformingarts.com/ hismajestys-theatre
Tuesday 31 September – Saturday 5 October Exeter Northcott Theatre
Box Office: 01392 726363 Website: www.exeternorthcott.co.uk
Tuesday 8 – Saturday 12 October Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne
Box Office: 01323 412000 Website: www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk
Further dates to be announced.