Tony Nominee Will Swenson Replaces Will Chase in Second Stage's Little Miss Sunshine

By Michael Gioia
September 3, 2013

Tony Award nominee Will Swenson, who has been seen on Broadway in Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and Hair, among others, will play the role of Richard Hoover in Second Stage Theatre's production of the Off-Broadway musical Little Miss Sunshine. Swenson replaces previously announced Tony nominee Will Chase, who has been cast as a country singer on TV's "Nashville." 



Swenson, who was last seen in Off-Broadway's Murder Ballad, will join a cast that includes Hanna Rose Nordberg (Creative Kids Youth Theater Project in Los Angeles) as Olive Hoover and Tony nominee Stephanie J. Block (Second Stage's By the Way, Meet Vera StarkWicked; 9 to 5; Anything Goes; The Pirate Queen; The Boy from Oz), as Sheryl Hoover.

The production will also feature Rory O'Malley (The Book of Mormon) as Frank Hoover, the recently dumped, heartbroken Proust scholar and uncle to Olive Hoover; David Rasche (2ST's Warrior Class) as Grandpa Hoover, Olive's most fervent supporter and biggest fan; Logan Rowland (The Addams Family) as the teenage Dwayne Hoover, who has sworn off speaking for the foreseeable future; Josh Lamon (Hair, Elf) and Jennifer Sanchez (West Side Story) as Buddy and Miss California, respectively, the co-hosts of the Little Miss Sunshine pageant; and Wesley Taylor ("Smash," Rock of Ages) as Joshua Rose, the ex-lover of Frank Hoover, who unexpectedly crosses paths with the Hoover family as they journey to the pageant.

An official opening night will be announced at a later date for the new musical by Tony Award winners William Finn and James Lapine.

The musical — which has undergone a major overhaul since its world premiere at California's La Jolla Playhouse in February 2011, retaining only three songs from the original version — will kick off 2ST's 35th season Oct. 15. It is based on the 2006 road-trip comedy film of the same name. 

"I am thrilled to kick off our 35th anniversary season with Little Miss Sunshine and to welcome back William Finn and James Lapine, two artists who have significant histories with Second Stage, most recently with our production of their musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," said Second Stage artistic director Carole Rothman in an earlier statement. "It seems appropriate to kick off this landmark season with a musical about optimism and resiliency, two qualities that are crucial for any not-for-profit theatre celebrating its past while also looking to its future. I can't wait to introduce this exuberant, funny, and sophisticated new musical to our audience."

Rothman told the New York Times that there are currently no plans for a Broadway transfer after the show's Off-Broadway run, although Broadway producers Beth Williams and Barbara Whitman are providing some financial support for the fall production.

The musical will feature scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Jennifer Caprio, lighting design by Ken Billington and sound design by Jon Weston. Choreography will be by Michele Lynch, and the music director will be Vadim Feichtner.

Here's how 2ST bills the musical, which will be directed by Lapine: "On life's twisty road, sometimes you need to pull over and change direction. When the coveted title of 'Little Miss Sunshine' is unexpectedly within her reach, young Olive Hoover convinces her family to make the 800 mile trek to the pre-teen pageant of her dreams. Along the way, a series of mishaps threatens to derail the group's quest for the crown, until they realize a young girl’s far-fetched goal may actually hold the key to the family's happiness. From the Tony Award-winning team of James Lapine and William Finn comes Little Miss Sunshine, a new musical comedy about one modern family’s unexpected route to brighter days."

La Jolla presented a private reading of the musical, featuring Raúl Esparza and Sherie Rene Scott under the direction of Lapine, in September 2011.

Finn penned music and lyrics, and Lapine wrote the libretto. Their previous collaborations include A New Brain, Falsettos and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

"Little Miss Sunshine," which was nominated for four Academy Awards, follows a dysfunctional family as they road-trip to California so their young daughter can compete in a beauty pageant.

For subscription or ticket information, call the Second Stage Box Office at (212) 246-4422 or visit www.2ST.com. Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theatre is located at 305 West 43rd Street (just west of Eighth Avenue).