IRISH actress and singer Lucy O'Byrne, runner -up in the 2015 series of The Voice talent show, is to visit York for the first time in the European premiere tour of Little Miss Sunshine.

From Tuesday to Saturday, at the Grand Opera House, she will play Sheryl, the matriarch of the eccentric, wild American family, in the quirky off-Broadway musical comedy based on Michael Arndt's Oscar-winning film.

Transported to the stage by James Lapine and William Finn, the story revolves around the Hoovers, a family with more than a few troubles. Nevertheless, young Olive has her heart set on winning the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest, so when an invitation to compete comes out of the blue, they pile into their rickety, yellow VW camper van for the 800-mile trip from New Mexico to California.

Dubliner Lucy connects with Olive's desires and family support from past experience. "My parents, Jimmy and Carol O'Byrne, are both in the business. My dad was a singer and an actor; my mam is a choreographer and director, and performing wasn't something I was drawn to do, so much as something that was just part of our family life," she recalls.

"They would take me and my sister, Rachel, to rehearsals, and she's become a professional actor too, working at The Gate and the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

"It just sort of happened. When we were little, say six or seven, my parents set up a school for me and my sister and my friends. It started as a lesson a week in a school hall 22 years ago, but now 350 children attend my parents' Song & Dance Stage School in Baldoyle, and it's become a huge part of the community in our part of Dublin. So many kids have gone through that school, so it's been really special."

Lucy would help out on Saturdays, teaching the younger children while she was training in Dublin, before she moved to "the big bad world of London to follow my dreams".

Her 'break' was two years in the waiting but came when she starred in Thérèse Raquin at the Park Theatre, London.

"My agent then wanted me to audition for The Voice, but at first I didn't want to do it, thinking it would be a mistake, but then I thought, 'no-one knows who I am', so I decided to do it, mostly to placate my agent and my singing teacher, mainly to get them off my back and to not rock the boat!" says Lucy.

"Then with every round I got through, i just thought, 'let's see where this goes' – and it came at a time when I wasn't even getting auditions before that as it's a difficult job to get roles.

"On the Saturday I was the runner-up, there was a little bit of recovery time afterwards, and then on the Monday my agent said [impresario] Bill Kenwright wanted me to audition for Maria in The Sound Of Music.

"The Voice changed my life. I'm under no illusions: I know I'm now in a position to play leading ladies only because I took a chance on doing The Voice and the public voted for me. I loved every minute of it and I'm grateful every day for the opportunity."

Little Miss Sunshine, A Road Musical, runs at Grand Opera House, York, June 4 to 8, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at

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This new production will be directed by the Arcola’s Artistic Director Mehmet Ergen with design by David Woodhead, lighting design by Richard Williamson, choreography by Anthony Whiteman and musical supervision by Mark Crossland.

The Hoover family has more than a few troubles, but young Olive has her heart set on winning the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest. When an invitation to compete comes out of the blue, the Hoovers must pile into their rickety, yellow VW camper van. Can it survive the 800-mile trip from New Mexico to California – and more importantly, can they? This inventive and uplifting musical celebrates the quirks of every family, the potholes in every road, and the power of overcoming our differences.

Arcola Artistic Director Mehmet Ergen said:

“In uncertain times, we all need a little bit of Sunshine. This is the story of a family coming together to celebrate their differences - and that speaks to the heart of Arcola Theatre’s ethos. Our diverse family of artists and audiences is growing every year, and we’re delighted that thousands more people outside London will get to experience Little Miss Sunshine, through our first major co-production with Selladoor Worldwide.”

Established in 2000, Arcola is one of London’s leading Off West End theatres. Locally engaged and internationally minded, its diverse and cutting-edge programme includes plays, operas and musicals. Previous musical productions include Sweet Smell of Success, The Cradle Will Rock, I Can Get It for You Wholesale and The Seven Deadly Sins, all directed by its Artistic Director Mehmet Ergen.

Arcola Executive Producer Leyla Nazli commented:

“Arcola Theatre is making bigger shows for longer runs, investing in artists while still providing tickets that are accessible for everybody. All seats for the London run of Little Miss Sunshine will be £10-£30, and as ever, we will keep Pay What You Can tickets available every week.”

2019 marks the 10th anniversary of Selladoor Worldwide (originally Sell a Door Theatre Company) and since it was founded it has become an integral part of the regional theatre landscape in the UK and Ireland and increasingly globally as its international touring arm develops. Its aim is to engage young and adult audiences, along with first-time attendees to encourage the next generation of theatre goers by producing dynamic and diverse productions.

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 800 miles across the US in their grandfather’s broken down old campervan – 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 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.

Is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to playing?

I’ve never been to York, so that is very exciting because I’ve heard the Grand Opera House is a fabulous venue. I’m really looking forward to that.

Irish actress and singer Lucy O’Byrne will star as Sheryl, the matriarch of the eccentric Hoover family. Lucy shot to fame on The Voice (BBC) in 2015 and was the runner-up that year. Her theatre credits include Eva Peron in Evita (UK, Ireland & Germany Tour), Fantine in Les Misérables (Queen’s Theatre – West End), Maria in The Sound of Music (UK and Ireland Tour), River Woman in Therese Raquin (Park Theatre) and Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof (Gaiety Theatre-Dublin). She has appeared on Friday Night is Music Night-Live from the London Palladium (BBC Radio 2), BBC Proms in the Park (BBC) and as Sam & Jessica in Ballybraddan (RTÉ/Monster Animation). Lucy appears on The Sound of Music (EP), NOW That’s What I Call Classical and Therese Raquin (Original Cast Recording) Her album ‘Debut’ is available now.