The former The Voice contestant tells us about starring in the new musical stage adaptation of Little Miss Sunshine.
What’s Little Miss Sunshine about? Little Miss Sunshine is about Olive Hoover, a 10-year-old girl who desperately wants to be a beauty queen. She’s not what you’d expect from a child pageant wannabe; she’s her own person. The show is about how her very dysfunctional family manages to get themselves eight hundred miles across the US in their grandfather’s broken down old camper van – having to push it most of the way – in time for a pageant she really wants to compete in. It’s about how everybody’s love for Olive, and their desire to do anything and everything they can for her to get her to this pageant, brings them together as a family.
What caught your imagination about the show? I have fallen in love with this quicker than I have with any other job. I think it just has so much heart. The highs and lows they hit on this journey are so over the top it becomes crazy. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, something else comes along. But through it all they keep a humour among them. That is so true to real family life.
You’re playing Olive’s mother, Sheryl. What excites you about her? She keeps everyone going, which is the beautiful thing about her. There’s never a moment when she’s going to give up and she doesn’t let anybody else either. She’s doing her best.
People already love the film. What does adding music and seeing it on stage bring to the experience? The film is perfect. It’s beautiful. But the musical just grabs you straight away. The music is gorgeous. The songs are hilarious. I think seeing it live lifts the story in a very special way because they’re there in front of you. They’re real people. You’re with them. You get sucked in and brought along on this journey.
But how do you stage a road movie in a theatre? This was one of the questions that I asked as well! I thought ‘How is that possible?’ But the direction and choreography is amazing. The set is so cool. It’s really quirky. The way that it works and how the movement around the bus has been directed is, by itself, worth coming to see. It’s so clever.
How are you feeling about taking the show on tour?I love touring, so I’m definitely excited. We’re going to a couple of venues I’ve been to before, which I love, and then there’s a few I’ve never been to as well, which is unusual for me, and exciting.
How important is touring theatre? It’s so important because it really means a lot to people. Not everybody can get to London and not everybody wants to go to London, but everybody needs an escape and everybody needs the arts. Everybody wants to sit and listen to a story and get away from the real world for an hour or two every so often. For me, as well, having been on The Voice adds another dimension because I get to meet the people who voted me through. What they did changed my life. The fact that they picked up a phone every Saturday was incredible. If they come and see a show I get to say thank you.
How was your experience of The Voice?I had the time of my life. I didn’t ever want it to end. I was working with incredible people; people at the top of their game in the TV and music industry. Watching a live TV show being made, and being part of it, was one of the most exciting things I think I’ll ever do in my life. And I was addicted to it from the very first live show. It wasn’t even that I wanted to win; I just wanted to be there for all the excitement of being on the floor when the cameras are moving around. Money couldn’t buy the opportunity we were being given. I remember will.i.am saying to us once, ‘Do you have any idea how much it would cost me if I wanted a 15 minute prime time Saturday night television slot on the BBC with all of this production crew – I couldn’t afford this, you’re being given it for free.’ I’ll never forget that because it made me take every little bit of it in and think ‘This is incredible’ every time I stood on that stage.
What can audiences expect from Little Miss Sunshine? I went to see this at the Arcola Theatre and I laughed until I cried and I cried until I laughed. It is a gorgeous story. Add to that beautiful music, a whole lot of humour and a fantastic set and you get a very special little show. It’s not big and it’s not flashy; it’s a really lovely true telling of a story about love and coming together.