Little Miss Sunshine The Musical, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

One of those independent movies that broke through to a wider public, the musical adaptation of Little Miss Sunshine arrived at the New Wolsey last week. It’s the story of the dysfunctional Hoover family, who are brought together when daughter Olive gets through to the final of the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant, which necessitates a road trip to California. Grandpa is a cocaine addict, kicked out of his retirement home for drug and sexual harassment offences, mum Sheryl is the rock trying to hold the family together, dad Richard an eternal optimistic whose Ten Steps To Success are challenging the patience of his family, son Dwayne has taken a vow of silence until he gets into the Air Force, and gay Uncle Frank joins them fresh from his suicide attempt, taken after falling in love with one of his students. As is the case with all road movies, much is learnt and revealed about each other as they slowly move to being a functional unit.

The production is perfectly cast. As Olive, Lily Mae Denman, was perfect, charming, innocent, and Lucy O’Bryne and Gabriel Vick’s excellent as the parents, Sev Keosggerian was a great, angst ridden, mainly silent Dwayne, and, as Frank, Paul Keating brought superb melancholy and self- pity, Best of all was Mark Moraghan’s politically incorrect, drug using, yet sympathetic Grandpa, providing an energy that drove the first half very well.

However, the music is instantly forgettable. and many songs lack the emotional kick needed at key points in the story. Olive is also given some “Mean Girls” to poke fun at her, and these performers also play pageant queens in the competition, but they are much older than Olive, and, frankly , it looks weird. Things aren’t helped by some serious padding that is designed solely to give the girls time to change outfits. That said, when Olive does her dance, capturing perfectly the uncomfortable atmosphere of the original, and her family join her dance in an act of defiance against authority, it is an absolute joy and you can’t help but root for them.