Ivy Kilgore, Gary Tipton, Blake Cox, Brooks Roseberry, Hannegan Roseberry, & Jason Roseberry in Little Miss Sunshine. Photo: Company Outcast.

Little Miss Sunshine the Musical

Book by James Lapine
Music and Lyrics by William Finn
Based on the original film written by Michael Arndt
Directed by Emily Grimany

A review by Kate Barry

Entire contents are copyright © 2022 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.

As I watched Little Miss Sunshine from Company Outcast, I kept thinking about that old cliché: “You can’t pick your family.” Even though family sticks by your side through trauma, stress, and everything else, that doesn’t exactly mean you will always get along or like each other. Company Outcast’s current production tells the tale of a dysfunctional family who hit the road to help a youngster make her beauty queen dreams come true. Based directly on the 2006 indie film, this heartbreakingly honest and wholesome tale about beating the odds comes alive with its own set of quirks. 

Accompanied by a piano player and percussionist, the cast harmonizes beautifully throughout the performance. Jason Roseberry and Hannegan Roseberry share some lovely vocals as Richard and Sheryl, the parents of would-be beauty queen Olive. A real-life married couple, the Roseberrys are relatable in their chemistry through every up and down. Jason Roseberry’s Richard is blinded by ambition and stubbornness as he keeps his family moving. This provides nice contrast as Hannegan Roseberry’s Sheryl considers moving on from the marriage to pursue personal happiness. 

As for Olive, Ivy Kilgore is adorable as she embarks on her journey to the beauty pageant. With long pigtails and colorful sneakers, Ms. Kilgore brings a precocious personality with each innocent question about homosexuality and suicide. And might I add, she sells her big pageant musical number with tenacious energy. She might shrink with insecurity to the chorus of spiteful mean girls (played by Amarielle Barbee, Samantha Bell, Anna Burnham, and Eva Sautter) but Ms. Kilgore’s Olive shows she has what it takes to be a beauty queen on her own terms. 

Olive and her parents go on this journey with her brother, Dwayne, Uncle Frank, and her aging hippie grandfather. Gary Tipton gives a feisty performance as the horny and outspoken grandfather. Tipton gives a show-stopping performance about having sex that is a highlight of the show. As angsty Nietzsche enthusiast Dwayne, Brooks Roseberry is Olive’s silent big brother. While his huge explosion of anger is spot on, I wanted more moments of deadpan expressions while he travels reluctantly with his family. Blake Cox rounds out the Hoovers as Uncle Frank. Sensitive and recovering, Cox performance is hopeful as he learns to move on in the face of heartbreak from former lover Joshua, played with an icy flair by Taylor Clemons.

Notable performances come from Jeremy O’Brien as he hosts the pageant at the end of the play. He is glitzy, corny, and over the top with his bow tie and tiny microphone. His duet with Marianne Zickuhr is something out of early 90s R&B in the best possible way. ZIckuhr serves up nice comedy as a social worker earlier in act two as well. 

The play makes great use of space even though the stage appeared to be oblong-shaped and lacking an exit. Blocks are used in place of the iconic Volkswagon van and road trip signs appear throughout the journey. During this road trip, the van is prone to break down which calls for clever staging involving the Hoover family to pantomime pushing while running and jumping into the moving vehicle. It is every bit as silly as it sounds and the blocking provides a great payoff. With such a great sequence, other details seem to need more work. Scene changes were unorganized at times. The two-piece musical accompaniment created a hindrance for an exit which was unfortunate for blocking and staging. Lighting cues were missed as well. While forgivable, I wondered about the quality of equipment at the venue considering I saw a production in the same place nearly a month ago which had the same lighting issue as well. 

Like most stories about journeys, by the time the Hoovers reach their destination they have learned new things about themselves and each other. Dreams are made and harsh realities are faced. Most importantly, Little Miss Sunshine the Musical shows what it’s like to let your freak flag fly, especially with your family.

Little Miss Sunshine the Musical

Oct 21-23, 29-30Company OutCast
New Albany Performing Arts Center
203 E Main Street
New Albany IN 47150

Kate Barry has worked with many different companies around town since graduating in 08 from Bellarmine University. She’s worked with CenterStage, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions. She used to work in the box office at that little performing arts center on Main Street but now she helps save the planet. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. Her play “Catcher Released” won an honorable mention with the Kentucky Playwrites Workshop. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. When she is not writing, she teaches yoga. Thanks for reading!