Mason, Celeste Rose photos Carol Rosegg
Joy- A New Musical
by Julia Polinsky
all the heart and soul and considerable talent that’s gone into Unexpected
Joy, it’s a pity the story hews to a predictable formula: Generation 1,
hippie. Generation 2: super conservative. Generation 3: I wanna be Grandma!
the Joy of the title (Luba Mason), is a hippie chick musician, living on Cape
Cod, rehearsing a memorial concert for Jump, her life partner and once the
other half of her music act. Her daughter Rachel (Courtney Balan) and
granddaughter Tamara (Celeste Rose) arrive from Oklahoma for the concert.
moment one, things don’t go well; Joy has forgotten the date, didn’t pick them
up at the airport, and greets her daughter by her hippie name. “Rainbow!” she
cries, as she moves in for the hug. From the tight-jawed response, you know
that conflict in Unexpected Joy centers around the too-tightly-wrapped
daughter of the unregenerate hippie.
and Jump were never married and never wanted to marry. Rachel, a
fundamentalist Christian married to a prominent televangelist, can’t get past
her anger about being born out of wedlock and her non-traditional upbringing.
Tamara, the sweet-girl rebel, can’t wait to be a nonconformist musician, just
like the Grandma she adores. She sings one of her own, revealing songs for
“Glamma,” as she nicknames Joy. She’s all set to sing in the memorial concert
for her grandfather, until her mother’s knee-jerk “no” sets off sparks.
sparks blaze up when Joy reveals that she’s about to get married. To a woman. A
Black woman named Lou (Allyson Kaye Daniel). And thereby hangs the rest of this
tale of intergenerational angst, great big love, and finding common ground.
Mason, Allyson Kaye Daniel
Amy Anders Corcoran lets her actors do what they do best – sing—and pulls
decent performances from all of them. Even so, Unexpected Joy feels like
a very good staged reading, partly because James Morgan’s scenic design has to
evoke too many places and barely succeeds at any of them. Bill Russell’s book
needs tightening, but several songs he wrote with Janet Hood knock it out of
the park. “I Think I’m Losing My Voice,” “She’s Got a Mind of Her Own,” “You
Are My Worst Nightmare,” and “Raising Them Right” really work, on every level.
though Unexpected Joy still feels like a work in progress, the music
elevates a so-so family drama from collection of predictable moments to joyful
theater. The four terrific performers dish up heartfelt moments, and their splendid
singing is the best part of the evening; it’s worth seeing the show just to
York Theatre Company
$67.50, 72.50; $25 student tickets
Tuesday, Wednesday, 7pm; Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, 2:30pm; Friday, Saturday, 8pm
May 27, 2018