Little Miss Sunshine/Malvern Theatres


IF it ain’t bust don’t mend it. Or, in the case of live theatre, it seems that there’s very little to be gained by souping up an existing time-tested work by recycling it as a musical.

The process seems to have become a trend of late. But this either misses or ignores the point that musicals are born and not made, and therefore cannot be created just by bolting on a few eminently forgettable songs to an existing creation.

James Lapine’s book told the story of an American road trip in which a supremely dysfunctional family head out on a journey that will hopefully bring stardom for the youngest member of their household.

The device of chronicling an actual odyssey as a metaphor for life’s journey, though not original, should ordinarily work fine. Yet there’s little mileage in this case and that’s because of the music. It just gets in the way.

The old man and his grand-daughter enjoy a particularly poignant relationship in the film of the book but in this production becomes a grotesque parody of a cocaine-snorting over-sexed old git, who really should stick to Reader’s Digest and a nice cup of cocoa at bedtime rather than sending out the other grandchild to buy his porn mags.

When he’s suddenly taken ill before the interval, one’s hopes were raised that he would indeed have snuffed it on the return to our seats. So it’s to our great relief when we discover he has indeed gone to the Great Orgy in the Sky during the preceding 15 minutes.

But… Evie Gibson as Shirley Temple wannabe Olive Hoover must surely have a glittering future ahead of her. She’s a real talent waiting in the wings, providing the most compelling reason why this family of navel-gazing losers make the trip in the first place.

Sadly though, her star is dimmed by a suffocating cloud of dirge-like numbers that bring nothing to an already fine work that should have been left well alone. Little Miss Sunshine runs until Saturday (August 31).

John Phillpott