When I was 19, I saw this film and I hated it. On Friday night I saw the musical adaptation of that same film, and I devoured every moment of it. Little Miss Sunshine might just be one of the most underrated pieces of modern musical theatre to date. Featuring an intricate and powerful book penned by theatrical veteran James Lapine and signature quirky score by William Finn, the Fab Nob's production of Little Miss Sunshine is well and truly worth a night out in Bayswater.
One of the most difficult challenges I face when writing a 5 star theatre review is not just writing I LOVED EVERYTHING, clicking 'publish post' and heading back to catching up on Season 7 of Suits on Netflix. So I will do my best to keep this brief and somewhat succinct, but really, "I loved everything" really does just about cover it.
Let's begin with the wonder that is the consistent ability of set designers to work the Fab Nobs Theatre space. Jeremy Swan has once again proven that you do not need fly towers, wing space or a $30,000 budget to create a striking, effective, interesting and functional stage space. Not only does the set 'do the job', but it looks fantastic whilst doing it (greatly assisted by the striking lighting design of Jason Lord and Keith Stubley).
The ensemble of actors are extremely strong as a whole, but you cannot go past the central character of Olive Hoover. Jazzy Devlin (what a cool name, am I right?) is a seasoned and experienced performer trapped in a 12 year old body. This young actress possesses more dramatic ability than that which many adult actors can only aspire. On top of that, she handles the tough unconventional scoring of Finn with ease, using her powerhouse vocal cords to send her melodies soaring all the way to the back of the theatre. To put it bluntly, Devlin is a star.
Alongside Devlin is a string of fanciful talent: Ash Cooper (Richard Hoover), Stephanie Powell (Sheryl Hoover), Will Sayers (Frank Ginsburg), Robert Harsley (Grandpa Hoover) and Sean Thomson (Dwayne Hooper) are all strong actors in their own right. Of particular note is the strikingly dry and realistic father-son relationship between Cooper and Harsley, Sayer's ability to maintain an honest unease in light of his characters recent 'event', Harsley's heartbreaking scene with Devlin when he serenades her with a lullaby in response to her cries about not being "pretty enough" and Thomson's breakdown in Act Two. As Sheryl Hoover, Stephanie Powell delivers a masterclass in acting through song. Her character development is both heartwarming and heartbreaking to experience and is only further enhanced by her ability to drive that development without fault through both scene and song alike.
Often you will only really 'notice' a band in a musical when it's not very good. Musical Director Sally Mackenzie's 6-piece band is so tight that one could easily pass it off as a click track. William Finn is not one to write a simple or straightforward score, and Mackenzie's band and acting ensemble navigate their way through with ease and precision.
Director Peter Roberts and Assistant Director/Choreographer Dean Robison have done a spectacular job of keeping this production grounded and real. The humour lands right on target and the emotional downfalls hit hard. Most commendable is the creation of the iconic van. Using nothing but a series of chairs on wheels and a floating steering wheel, regardless of the configuration, one never loses the image of 'the van'. The attention to detail to keep this illusion alive is highly commendable and very entertaining.
Special mention goes to actors Stephanie Miller, Erin Barden, Brianna Balfour-Smith, Ruby Molnar, Carry Quigley, Mitch Sanfilippo and Curtis Mason for their highly entertaining cameo performances. Mason's gum-chewing Kirby is a performance that anyone who witnesses it is unlikely to forget anytime soon.
Performing at the Fab Nobs Theatre for a three week season, this is production is a definite must-see. It's the perfect musical to bring your friends and family along to, particularly those who 'don't like musicals'.
Little Miss Sunshine
Fab Nobs Theatre
Friday 29 March - Saturday 13 April