Holly Hunter reprises her stage role [in Beth Henley’s play The Miss Firecracker Contest] as Carnelle, a former goodtime girl whose dream is to win the local Miss Firecracker contest in her hometown of Yazoo City, Miss. Her cousin (Mary Steenburgen) won the crown over a decade earlier, and against all odds Carnelle makes it to the finals as an alternate.
Miss Firecracker is peopled with oddball characters, notably Tim Robbins as Steenburgen’s free spirit brother and Alfre Woodard as the black seamstress assigned to fabricate Carnelle’s contest costume.
Putting the show over with a bang is Hunter, the epitome of energy in a tailormade feisty role. She very accurately judges the line between high and low camp in her climactic tapdance for the talent contest, entertaining but just klutzy enough to be authentic.
Steenburgen and Woodard are consistent scene-stealers here, former dead-on as a Southern belle putting on airs and latter revivifying ethnic stereotypes such as bugged-out eyes into a hilarious, original character.