I snagged a last minute ticket to the second-to-last performance of James Lapine and William Finn’s Little Miss Sunshine at Second Stage Theatre. I’d heard very mixed things but I’d be hearing things for so long that I wanted to check it out regardless. And I’m really glad I did.
I think I may have seen the movie at one point or another, but I didn’t remember it well at all. I knew it was about a children’s beauty pageant and the road to get there, but that was it. The space inside Second Stage’s main stage was used so brilliantly and simply. It revolved around an upstage platform with some LCD screens and some seats on wheels, one with a steering wheel.
I have to admit that the show didn’t have a great flow, but the characters were engaging enough that most of the time you didn’t really care that each song felt disconnected from the last. Will Swenson and Stephanie J. Block, as Olive’s parents, were both amusing and well-sung; Rory O’Malley was emotionally gripping as Olive’s uncle Frank; Logan Rowland was hysterical as Olive’s older, silent brother Dwayne (though his voice was at times a tad nasally); David Roscow also provided very necessary comedic relief as the grandfather when times were tense inside the bus. Additionally there were Wesley Taylor, Jennifer Sanchez, and Alivia Clark, Victoria Dennis, Miranda McKeon, and Leonay Shepherd as the additional (and in my opinion pointless) pageant brats.
Last, but certainly not least, was Hannah Nordberg, as the title character Olive. Nordberg was energetic, owned the stage whenever possible, and she had a great voice. Her final number had everyone in the audience clapping and shouting. If you hadn’t loved her up until that point, you certainly did afterward.
Little Miss Sunshine, though not perfect by any means, was certainly a fun 100 minutes at the theatre that I’m glad I didn’t miss.