Little Miss Sunshine

‘Little Miss Sunshine’ is a fun musical, which despite the title, is more suitable for an audience of young teenagers and older. The book’s author was James Lapine, and William Finn added the indifferent musical score and the fun lyrics.

In 2006, this story became a double Oscar-winning film, with an award for the screenplay and another for Alan Arkin as Grandpa.

This two-hour (no interval), Stirling Theatre Company production can be seen at the Stirling Theatre, Morris Place, in Innaloo. The shows start at 8.00 pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings until 1st December, with Sunday matinées at 2.00 pm on November the 18th and 25th.

The scene: is Western America, near Los Angeles.

The set: was simple, but most effective; Timothy Tyrie, who constructed it along with the help of Linda Redman, designed it. The approach was quite novel, with the home interior represented by the wooden framework of the ‘see-through’ stud walls; along with a dining table and set of chairs. These classroom-style chairs had castors fitted, and were utilised as the seats of the family kombi van.

The projection screen, which filled the rear of the stage, had some excellent scenery shots that instantly set the location, ranging from a hospital (interior and exterior) to the scenic Wild West. The projection design and operation was by Tyler and Kelsey Eldridge.

A black scrim was drawn across the stage for some scenes; this allowed the silent setting up of the next location. The stage management was swift and efficient, thanks to Emma Redgwell, assisted by Emily Brown. Well done.

Very good lighting design and operation by Shelly Miller. The fine soundscape was designed by Daniel Toomath, and operated by Justin Camilleri.

At the local hospital, Uncle Frank (Timothy Tyrie) has just been treated for his wrist ‘accident’ by the doctor (Jordan Jackson). His sister-in-law, Sheryl (Steph Hickey) is waiting to take him home.

In his bedroom, the Grandpa (David Cosgrove) is taking his daily invigorating snort. Meanwhile, his grandson, Dwayne (Charlie Martin) has ambitions to join the Air Force and is in a vow of silence until he is accepted.

Dwayne’s kid sister, Olive (Tahli Redgwell) recently entered a local talent contest – and won. This means that she is eligible to enter the main talent pageant 800 kms away, which is being judged by Miss California (Katt Nelson). Even though her father is strict, Richard (Mitchell Lawrence) is caring, and sees Olive’s excitement. The family really don’t have the money for a flight, or even a bus ticket to get her there, and so they decide to take their beaten up old kombi van instead.

Uncle Frank meets his old partner and love, Joshua Rose (Zachary Cave), but still decides to join the family in their trip.

That night Olive imagines a bunch of mean girls (Keely Crugnie, Emmy Bekink and Skye Colcott) who mock her cruelly. Then there is another pageant girl (Chloé Redgwell) with a special act – can Olive get to the venue? Or is the family trip doomed?

The outrageous, but glorious wigs and exotic costumes were designed by Lynda Stubbs, who was aided in their construction by Shelly Miller, Andrea Colcott and Marjorie DeCaux. These ladies must have had a huge amount of fun creating the garments that ranged from haute couture to tasteless.

The choreographer, Celeste Underhill, guided Grandpa’s nurse with her therapeutic moves; but was mainly concerned with making the young talent seekers walk in a slinky, sassy manner.

The musical director and conductor was Tara Oorjitham, whose co-director was keyboard player, Jay Anderson. The band included Izaac Masters on second keyboard, Liam Gobbert on reed, Hannah Flynn on horn, James Pinneri on cello, and Alex Kent was on percussion. The musicians were in a side room off the main auditorium; this allowed a much better balance of the instruments, and accompaniment level than having them in front of the stage.

All of the singers were very well rehearsed, and had melodious voices. At times there were numbers that called for intricate harmonies, and they worked extremely well. I was a little disappointed with some musical compositions, but this was nothing to do with the production’s quality talent.

Director Tyler Eldridge showed a great deal of skill in holding the audience, by having a fast paced delivery, and some fabulous ideas for the van ride. The passengers chasing the van were most convincing, added excitement and quite a few laughs. The cast had plenty of empathy and came across as a typical real family.

A special mention for youngster Tahli Redgwell as Olive. What a little Miss Dynamite. Tahli had superb movement and stage skills, far in advance of her age. She could sing, dance and deliver comedy. The other youngsters were also amazing as the snobby, sexy pageant entrants.

A tricky show to present, but it was packed with fun, quality singing and accompaniment.

Try and catch one of the few shows remaining.