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Unexpected Joy

From 19 critic and 138 member reviews
Members say: Great singing, Entertaining, Delightful, Funny, Relevant

About the show

The York Theatre Company's world premiere musical centers around three generations of female singers, long-held family tensions, and a week together where change is in the air.  More…

In modern day Cape Cod, Joy, a baby boomer and proud hippie, is holding a memorial concert for the other half of her popular musical duo, Jump & Joy. When her tightly wound conservative daughter and her sweet rebellious granddaughter arrive from Oklahoma, the sparks fly as one family seeks to find the common ground in their different values, dreams and goals. A heartfelt and comic story that celebrates diversity and acceptance, 'Unexpected Joy' weaves folk-rock, pop, and blues in bringing together a family that hasn’t experienced true joy together for decades.

Show Showdown

"Pulses with energy, love, humor, and compassion...Lacks chorus, dances, and big numbers yet is completely full and satisfying...Russell and Hood are extremely well-served by Corcoran, who directs with clarity and rhythm...Amazing cast...All four women have beautiful voices, and their different personalities and styles mesh perfectly...While the small, its sound is big...They truly rock...Deserves a nice long run." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

“Everything clicks, with a believable plot, a cast of four who can really sing as well as act and a four-musician band that gives the show further oomph...Charmingly staged, and as the plot unfolds, it is laced with catchy musical numbers defining the characters...When Tamara, looking and acting so innocent, bursts into with its sexy moves and lyrics, she is a show-stopper...There is considerable cleverness in the lyrics and the music in varied styles is consistently appealing.” Full Review


“Sweet, funny and very entertaining new musical...Sure, the plot can be a little contrived, but Russell's words are filled with wit and sincerity and Hood's music, played by music director Beth Falcone's four-person band, is a catchy blend of pop styles. Directed by Amy Anders Corcoran, the York Theatre Company's production is swift and light, but the show blasts into high gear when the four talented cast members raise their voices in rousing harmonies.” Full Review

New York Stage Review

"It does give credulity quite a stretch, but it doesn’t test it to the absolute breaking point...Many 'Unexpected Joy' audiences will forgive its unexpected story line because the Bill Russell score, which has solos for all as well as duets and trios and quartets, is so pop-music-gospel-music strong...One of the unexpected joys of this production is the glorious singing on every song." Full Review


"The accomplished score and vivid performances transcend the clichés making the predictability seem fresh...Russell’s appealing book expertly charts everyone’s backstory, sets up topical debates and resolves personal battles with an optimum amount of sentiment that doesn’t become cloying. The natural flowing dialogue contains much wit...Corcoran’s work with the cast is superlative...'Unexpected Joy' isn’t groundbreaking but is good-natured entertainment that’s affectively presented." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"A cheerful, rousing celebration that also boasts surprising complexity in its characters and their warped relationships...Credit composer Hood and especially librettist-lyricist Russell, who really, really knows how to write women...What may catch you unexpectedly is how equitably Russell has dished out the good and bad human traits among these four...Corcoran's direction is unfussy, and she allows pauses and silences where they're warranted, a rarity among directors of musicals." Full Review

Says Me Says Mom

“Not a typical family musical...The plot is engaging and definitely not predictable. The acting is good. The way the cast relates to each other...makes you really feel like these people are a family...Full of lovely heartfelt songs...The cast's voices blend beautifully together...When all four women sing together the songs are especially delightful...Not a show for young children...And anyone who is extremely conservative...A nice show with terrific songs.” Full Review

Broadway Blog

"'Unexpected Joy’s' greatest attribute is that of its throwback score, which nods to Laura Nero, Joni Mitchell, and some bluesy references a la Tom Waits and Bob Dylan. Bringing those songs to life is a musically exceptional cast led by Mason...Director Corcoran and music director Falcone navigate the material with a watchful eye, though Russell’s script feels a bit belabored and occasionally like an unwanted houseguest when you’d rather just listen to these ladies sing." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"If 'Unexpected Joy' were able to embody its narrative core and catchy songs within an imaginative framework unburdened by a superficial script, it might have a chance. But as it is now, it has a split personality…A few strong laughs help carry the essentially sitcom plot and dialogue, stereotypical characters, and feel-good ending…Many of the songs are actually very entertaining, if derivative…The vocally gifted, charismatic ensemble gives excellent performances in their paper-thin roles." Full Review


"Features strong-voiced singers and a thoroughly professional presentation that works without a lot of lavish scenery or technical wizardry...The performers are all excellent, but this is hardly groundbreaking or extraordinarily fresh...That said, it's light-hearted fun, with likeable characters that takes a well-meaning look at the issues that divide modern American families." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"The talented cast (Allyson Kaye Daniel is a stand out both as an actress and a vocalist) delivers mostly generic songs with energy and sincerity. Appealing arrangements appreciably raise the level of material. Direction (Amy Anders Corcoran) is yeoman-like." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“Filled with some pretty good pop/folk/blues-tinged songs sung by a talented cast of singers, but there are a few problems...How unexpected this story line is, and how full to the brim of conflicts to address. It’s a multi-layered wedding cake, tottering on a wobbly table, threatening to fall crashing to the ground...The resulting songs, as directed by Corcoran, are like a watered-down punch, trying too hard to satisfy two different parties...They taste fine, but rarely delicious." Full Review

DC Metro Theater Arts

"Directed with an oh-so-light-and-pleasant touch by Amy Anders Corcoran...Has little of the fervent drama or cogent insight that would seem to be inherent in the subject. What joy it does offer comes in the form of a cast of talented vocalists and musicians...Despite the dramatic potential of the plot points, Russell’s characters are drawn as all-too-familiar stereotypes...The thinly-conceived story is tied together with entertaining numbers that support the musical conceit." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"'Unexpected Joy' lives or dies on the audience caring whether this fractious little family holds together. But all the characters do is restate their positions, repeatedly, rendering the question unimportant and uninvolving...Admittedly, 'Unexpected Joy' goes down easily, thanks to some genuinely funny wisecracks, a passel of tuneful songs, and a quartet of performances that make everything seem better than it is." Full Review


"The end result is like what you'd imagine would come from a Netflix version of 'The Brady Bunch' — it has some leeway for edgier content but doesn't exactly know how to use it...The show seems to lose sight of the fact that it is preaching to the converted, not relaying new or revelatory information. The book's weaknesses become even more frustrating when compared to some of the truly lovely songs...Don't expect anything unexpected in this musical." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"Has a message that we all need to find the 'Common Ground.' In a country so torn apart by its convictions, this message could not come at a better time...Russell does better on the lyrics, than the book, which seems to want to make stereotypes out of each of these characters...So overstuffed with issues, that it becomes cliche. Hood's melodic score...Is catchy, but stuck in one time zone...Corcoran keeps things light, but it almost is too light for the weight of the material." Full Review

Stage Left

“A groovy, folk rock score, an intriguing original story mining contemporary themes, and a quartet of strong female vocal performances; and some unfortunate faults: a script and direction lacking dynamism, stereotypical characters and sitcom-deep dialogue, and a pat ending. The whole show feels dated and unrealistic, with an 'agree to disagree' closing message about LGBT equality that I found troubling.” Full Review

The New York Times

"The show had its premiere on Cape Cod two summers ago with a different director and cast. Revised since then, it retains both its primary strengths — Hood’s music and Russell’s lyrics, though their title song is still underwhelming — and its fatal weaknesses: Russell’s strained plot and sitcom-shallow dialogue, and a central character so self-absorbed that you have to wonder what Lou, who is a catch, sees in her. Mason’s the least assured in an otherwise strong cast." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"Well-intentioned but wan...The show’s setup—and its hazy framing device—is a memorial performance for Jump. A little predictable, but convenient, as it gives Joy, Rachel, Tamara, and Joy’s friend Lou (Allyson Kaye Daniel) an excuse to stand around and sing a bunch of songs, concert-style...Getting from song to song—that pesky libretto!—is the problem. Russell has a knack for one-liners, but not for plotlines." Full Review

Enchanting, Delightful, Great acting, Entertaining, Absorbing

See it if Go if you appreciate beautiful, diverse music, familial stories, great singing and acting, Cudos for Ms. Mason's unbelievable vocal range!

Don't see it if If you are a stuck in the mud cumudgeon and cannot appreciate a beautiful score and the talented actors who bring it to life skip it

Great singing, Entertaining, Enchanting, Delightful, Clever

See it if Spectacular singing by all four. Spectacular lighting, Great tale re: the generational gap.s A 97% & a 99% gets the 98%

Don't see it if Minimal sets but it fits the play perfectly.Only negative.... it should play on and on and on.

Edgy, Entertaining, Clever

See it if You enjoy great singing

Don't see it if You don’t like small musicals

Great singing, Funny, Entertaining, Delightful

See it if You want to see a fresh, well acted, truly enjoyable musical. The 4 actresses were outstanding and the story fun and relevant.

Don't see it if No reason not to see it.

Also Went with 6 others of all different ages and we all really loved the s... Read more Read less

Must see, Masterful, Great singing, Entertaining, Delightful

See it if The best off-Broadeay Musical I've seen since Hamilton. Brilliant script/lyrics; great singing; lyrics define roles.

Don't see it if See it. Don't see if you're misogynistic.

Thought-provoking, Great singing, Relevant, Funny, Entertaining

See it if You want to see 4 great women with great voices singing great songs.

Don't see it if You don't like intimate 4 character musicals

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Intelligent, Great singing, Entertaining

See it if You like funny and touching new musicals with a pop/rock score, And you like thought-provoking, intelligent new musical theater.

Don't see it if You just want to see a silly old-fashioned musical comedy with no depth.

Delightful, Relevant, Intelligent, Great writing, Great singing

See it if You want a lighthearted but not fluffy show. Surprisingly full of thought provoking and real subject matter yet never gets bogged down.

Don't see it if You don’t want to see a musical that tackles some current controversial topics.

Great writing, Funny, Delightful

See it if you are a fan of beautiful, happy musicals with a real story. The lyrics are fantastic and the characters are wonderfully drawn.

Don't see it if Can't think of a reason!

Also The music reminded me of early Loggins and Messina--a total compliment... Read more Read less

Refreshing, Entertaining, Great singing, Great acting

See it if High energy musical with beautiful ballads and great group songs. Realistic fast paced and a tale of acceptance in a family.

Don't see it if You'd prefer a classical show instead

Great singing, Entertaining, Delightful

See it if You have an interest in Mother Daughter Drama presented through music reminiscent of the sixties yet relevant in today's world

Don't see it if Mother Daughter Drama holds no interest for you.

Great singing, Funny, Absorbing, Entertaining, Delightful

See it if You want to hear great voices. Beautiful family story. Lots of family dynamics in 3 generation relationship. 4 terrific actresses/singers

Don't see it if You are homophobic. Not for conservative folks

Resonant, Relevant, Great singing, Entertaining, Clever

See it if you like the idea of seeing 3 generations of women, all of whom have great voices; if you love The York Theatre, Where Musicals come to Life

Don't see it if you are homophobic; if you only like big Broadway splashy musicals (in which case you're missing a lot of great entertainment)

Entertaining, Funny, Delightful

See it if - you like fun, original music - you like a story about a free spirit and her family - you like a great band (they rocked)

Don't see it if - you don't like new musicals - you have no heart

Great singing, Entertaining, Funny, Absorbing, Delightful

See it if family dramas appeal to you, and you want to hear a lot of punch, on a small stage. Great singing, sweet musical, enjoyed even by jaded teen

Don't see it if you find inter-generational conflicts tiring, if you want jazz fingers and a big production

Entertaining, Refreshing, Relevant, Delightful

See it if You want to see a beautifully crafted musical about , family, beliefs, & acceptance of 3 generations of family singers told heartwarmily.

Don't see it if You don't like gay themed musicals about family conflicts and acceptance

Great singing, funny, poignant, entertaining, uplifting

See it if If you like pop-folk music, family dramas full of comedy, and uplifting stories with a "message" that doesn't hit you over the head.

Don't see it if You don't like "message" musicals, in this case marriage equality and tolerance.

Also I loved this show. I'd see it again. My friend was reviewing and took ... Read more Read less

Great singing, Funny, Entertaining, Delightful

See it if You like shows that are lovely, charming, and full of good songs.

Don't see it if You don't like small musicals and/or don't like shows with all-woman casts.

Also I had a great time. Will the show doesn't break new ground, it does ve... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Delightful, Funny, Great staging, Great acting

See it if You want to see a play that will have you laughing and you get to hear some great singing and you would sing along if you knew the words.

Don't see it if You don't want to have a good time and see three generations of female singers hash out some family issues.

Also I had a good time. I was laughing and totally enjoying this play. The ... Read more Read less

Funny, Heart-warming, Relevant, Great singing, Delightful

See it if you enjoy a sweet, little musical that has a surprising edge. Thoroughly enjoyable throughout.

Don't see it if you are looking for a show with a complex plot or lavish dance numbers.

Relevant, Funny, Entertaining, Clever, Delightful

See it if if you have mother/daughter relationships in your life. Unexpected Joy is heartwarming, funny, and totally enjoyable. Music was great!

Don't see it if you don't like conflict.

Entertaining, Delightful, Ambitious, Great writing, Great singing

See it if For Unexpected Joyous production portraying 3 generations of talented women & the "Unexpected" 4th woman a knockout bluesy gutsy singer

Don't see it if Don't like musicals-are offended by unexpected relationships (gay & multi-racial) But--see it--a gem of a show.

Also This small Off Broadway production is big on talent & originality. Bet... Read more Read less

Delightful, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if You want to hear four fabulous voices singing great songs.

Don't see it if You are conservative and not tolerant of alternative lifestlyes.

Refreshing, Quirky, Great singing, Entertaining, Delightful

See it if You want to see a country/pop/rock musical about families w/different POVSs. You enjoy realistic portrayals of women. You want great singing

Don't see it if You don't like country-inspired musicals. You prefer shows w/larger production values.

Funny, Great singing, Entertaining

See it if You like plays about family relationships

Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with plays about a gay relationship

Cast & Creatives (12)