Review: Little Miss Sunshine at The Grand Opera House – York

Image credit – Manuel Harlan-Min

I was offered the chance to review Little Miss Sunshine – The Musical, at the Grand Opera House in York. I haven’t seen the film, but most of my friends have and loved it, so I was really looking forward to attending the press night on 4th June 2019.

Little Miss Sunshine is the off-beat musical comedy created by the Tony Award-winning team of James Lapine. It is based on the Academy Award-winning film by Michael Arndt.

“The Hoover family has more than a few troubles, but young Olive has her heart set on winning the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest. When an invitation to compete comes out of the blue, the Hoovers must pile into their rickety, yellow VW camper van. Can it survive the 800-mile trip from New Mexico to California – and more importantly, can they? This inventive and uplifting musical celebrates the quirks of every family, the potholes in every road, and the power of overcoming our differences.”

Image credit – Manuel Harlan-Min

Mark Moraghan Q&A

The former star of Holby City, Emmerdale, Dream Team and more tells us about taking the musical stage adaptation road movie Little Miss Sunshine out on the road.

What is Little Miss Sunshine about?

Olive is Little Miss Sunshine. She’s a young girl with a dysfunctional family, who wins a place in a beauty pageant in California. All the family decide to go together in their grandpa’s old VW minibus. It’s about their adventures on the way.

What made you want to be part of the production?

Well, I thought the film was fantastic. I’m a big fan of Alan Arkin [who played Grandpa in the movie], so to follow in his footsteps, albeit on stage, is an honour. It’s one of those jobs you just really want to be involved in.

What excites you about playing Grandpa?

I like him because he’s a naughty boy. He’s been around the block a few times and he swears a lot. He doesn’t suffer fools and he tells it like it is. He’s been a bit of a ladies man in his past and he still thinks he is. He’s just a fun character to play. And the lines are a gift. It’s so well written.

People love the film. What is it that makes its tale so special?

I just think it’s a lovely story. I think the American pageant system is very strange; kids being dressed up like adults. I find it all really odd. But Olive is the antithesis of those kids and she wants to do it. Her heart shines through and she just lets rip. I think there are lots of nice messages within the musical.

And what does adding music and seeing the story performed live add to the experience?

The music is phenomenal, and I think with musical theatre you can take everything up several notches. Alan Arkin’s film performance is very understated although brilliant, whereas on stage I am going to make Grandpa larger than life. You have to do that to entertain the paying public.

How do you do a road movie on stage?

That’s where the brilliantly clever direction from Mehmet [Ergen] comes in. He’s made great use of props. The minibus itself is ingenius, the way it’s put together and the way the cast move around to make it all come together. It’s seamless and it works so well within the music, the soundscape and the storytelling.

What excites you about touring the show?

It’s great playing lots of different venues. It sounds a bit sentimental, but I love theatres. I love Matcham theatres especially. When you get to play a grand old space and you think of all the people who’ve trodden the boards before you… I also love arriving at a new place and seeing what the atmosphere’s like and exploring the town. It’s just great fun. And there’s a great sense of camaraderie with the cast. You’re family away from home. You become a tight knit group and everyone looks out for each other.

You’ve had an incredible TV career that spans dramas including Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Brookside, Dream Team and Holby City. Can you pick any highlights?

I have been very lucky that I’ve had a really diverse career. You know when actors say ‘I chose to go down this path’? I think that’s nonsense, because the business tells you which path you’re going to be on unless your Dad is Sir So-And-So. You don’t choose your path. For a lot of years I kept on getting jobs in soap, which is one of the hardest disciplines for any actor, but I always wanted to do more film.

How did you get into performing?

At school. I was very lucky that I had great drama teachers in primary school. They cast me in my first role, Peter Pan, when I was 8 or 9. That gave me the bug. Then my drama teacher in secondary school saw something in me too. Without that I would never have gone on the paths I took.I’ve always just thought of myself as a jobbing actor. I’m nearly 40 years in the business and I’m still doing it. I thank my lucky stars I’m still able to do it. I’ve always said I won’t retire. Ill health may retire me, but given the choice I’ll go on until I drop really.

Our verdict

In short – we loved it!

I love live theatre and as my husband and I have never seen the film we had no preconceptions about the story. We had amazing seats and an excellent view of the stage and musicians. We really enjoyed the story and found we embarked on a roller coaster of emotions -one minute laughing and the next minute close to tears! Every character was strong and excellently played and each character was equally as important to the story line. I could relate to all members of the imperfectly eccentric Hoover family as they are not dissimilar to our own – moody teenager, daughters who love to dance and mum and dad, who just basically try their best!

Olive Hoover gave an enchanting performance, she is blissfully unaware of her dysfunctional family and is sensitive to the feelings of her gay uncle, sex loving grandpa and her teenage brother who chooses not to talk. The whole performance was flawless and we loved the way we felt empathy for every single character.

My husband (who is a musician) loved the music. The band was excellent, you could almost be forgiven in thinking it was a soundtrack, it was so tight. The actors also had great singing voices, despite them having to sing in an american accent.

Would we recommend the production? Most definitely, I would be really happy to watch the whole thing all over again, there was so much to see and enjoy, especially as the Grand Opera House York is such a stunning venue.


Where can you buy tickets from?

Little Miss Sunshine runs from Tuesday 4th June 2019 to Saturday 8th June 2019. Tickets can be bought from The Grand Opera House York.

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.

*For review purposes I was gifted two tickets for Little Miss Sunshine at the Grand Opera House York.


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