Preview: Little Miss Sunshine the Musical

The singing aspect of Little Miss Sunshine the Musical holds no fears for Liverpool actor Mark Moraghan as it swings by on tour

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The road to happiness is a bumpy ride for the dysfunctional Hoover family but young Olive offers a reason to get their act together. Quite literally. Setting off from New Mexico in an unreliable VW campervan, the family hit the road to California, where Olive wants to compete in a beauty pageant.

The offbeat story featuring Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell and other big names captured the hearts of film fans and critics in 2006. Now Little Miss Sunshine lends her charm to a musical adaptation for the stage.

Created by the Tony Award-winning team of James Lapine (Into the Woods) and William Finn (Falsettos) the musical had its world premiere in San Diego in 2011 before performing off-Broadway in 2013. Now it’s living up to its title of “road musical” with a UK tour.

Liverpool actor Mark Moraghan joins the cast for the tour, taking up the role of Olive’s drug-addicted but doting Grandpa. Addiction is one of several big themes the dark comedy tackles, along with LGBT issues, depression and suicide, while managing to be an ultimately uplifting tale. The complex role of Grandpa was famously played by Alan Arkin.

“I am a big Alan Arkin fan, and he is amazing in the film. But stage and film are very different,” says Moraghan. “My Grandpa will be a bit larger than life, shall we say, especially during one of my numbers. I think you have to bring your own character to the table. I may nick a few mannerisms or bits of business that stand out.”

Moraghan will be recognisable to many for his TV work. He played Greg Shadwick in Brookside and has had roles in Holby City, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and other staples of the viewing nation. Are there any similarities between soap acting and a part in a long-running production like this?

“Firstly, there is no such thing as soap acting. Film, TV, soaps all require the same skills. If anything working on a soap is much harder as you get less time,” he says. “Theatre acting is a separate skill. You have to be very aware of the space you occupy with your fellow actors, while making it easy for an audience to see everything you are doing. It’s great doing a show for a long run as you find new things to do with your character along the way.”

Despite his TV work the musical aspect of the show doesn’t faze Moraghan, whose theatre credits include Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and My Fair Lady.

“Most actors I know can sing,” he points out. “The more strings to your bow, the more you can diversify. I was in a band for a short while when I was 16 and I have a jazz swing album on Linn Records.”

The tour comes to Salford next week and runs until October, stopping off at Liverpool Playhouse for a four-night stint. How will Moraghan make the most of his time at home?

“Playing in your home town is always special. I tend to work a lot in Liverpool but I haven’t been at The Playhouse since about 1987, so it’ll be great to come back. I’ll also catch up with family and a few old pals.”

Little Miss Sunshine the Musical visits Salford, York, Bradford, Sheffield and Liverpool in the north (littlemisssunshinethemusical.com) 

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