Book by James Lapine.
Music & Lyrics by William Finn.
Directed & Choreographed by Maggie Portman.
Produced by Chicago Theatre Workshop.
At The Edge Theater, Chicago.
Strange story, weird characters, poor singing and atonal music and talk-songs sink musical.
You know a musical is in trouble when a grade-schooler lead (Sophie Kaegi) is the best performer. Little Miss Sunshine is NOT the movie (that I never saw). rather it is a chamber musical with book by James Lapine and music and lyrics by William Finn. With exception of Falsettos and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, I am not a fan of William Finn’s compositions. His music is a tad atonal and his lyrics are quite difficult to sings rendering them “talk-songs” upon execution. That is the case with the Chicago premiere of Little Miss Sunshine. Director Maggie Portman had a problem casting this quirky show. She found young Sophie Kaegi to play Olive the child that is being taken to California from New Mexico to be in a child beauty pageant. Finding mostly non-Equity actors who can sing Finn’s difficult talk-songs and also be able to act is a daunting task.
Unfortunately, with the exception of Sophie Kaegi, none of the cast can sing. That spells trouble for a musical! With 19 songs in a 100 minute one act, Little Miss Sunshine’s songs sounded like someone scratching their fingers on a blackboard. The parents, Sheryl Hoover (SharyonA. Culberson and Richard Hoover (Greg Foster) have many key songs that somehow alluded them. But the book is so lame that together with goofy plot twists rendered a clumsy, uneven musical.
It is possible that Little Miss Sunshine is better as a film? I’m going to see the film since the musical doesn’t seem to work. But maybe with a cast of singers who can play quirky characters, Little Miss Sunshine can be stageworthy? Maybe. But as now presented, Little Miss Sunshine is best viewed as a film.
At The Edge, 5451 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, call 773-999-9541, tickets $32.50 – $42.50, Thursdays & Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 100 minutes without an intermission, through June 4, 2017.