The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings

A CurtainUp Review
Unexpected Joy

—Joy and the backup singers in the first of Unexpected Joy's 13 songs, "How Do We Go On?"
L-R- Three generations of a musical family: Celeste Rose, Courtney Balan, Luba Mason
Given that Unexpected Joy is starting its official life at the York Theater, it's not unexpected that it features strong-voiced singers and a thoroughly professional presentation that works without a lot of lavish scenery or technical wizardry.

For the show's book and lyric writer Bill Russell, who also penned the book and lyrics for Side Show, Unexpected Joy was a chance to showcase the music of five terrific women: Composer Janet Hood, and a quartet of terrific belters: Courtney Balan, Alyson Kaye Daniel, Luba Mason and Celeste Rose.

As usual, James Morgan, the York's Producing Artistic Director has created a pleasing and apt setting for the singers and 4-piece band (as led by Beth Falcone, adding to the #MeToo timeliness), for this family saga to unfold.

To sum it all up In the perennial nutshell, this is a reunion of sorts for three generations of women. Joy the eldest (a tall, blonde and most ungrandma-like Luba Mason) has planned. She's invited her daughter Rachel (Courtney Balan) and granddaughter Tamara (Celeste Rose) to join her in Cape Cod for combination concert and memorial for the musician she never bothered to marry.

Mother and daughter have not exactly been close since their lives have been on decidedly differently tracks. The free-spirited, unconventional Joy has fallen in love again, this time with Lou (Allyson Kaye Daniel) a feisty Lesbian and also a talented musician. But Joy has another event to celebrate that she wants her daughter and granddaughter to share with her— her marriage to Lou.

While Rachel too has carried on the family music tradition, it's as the choir leader of her Evangelical minister husband's church. Naturally, this puts mother and daughter not just on a different musical track, but a whole belief system. To further stand in the way of of achieving the that titular "Unexpected Joy" it turns out that young Tamara wants to be a singer like grandma Joy, and not be forced to follow her parents' rigid life style.

Clearly there's a lot of tension to air out and punctuate with rousing pop-rock singing. Joy hems and haws about telling her anti-gay daughter who Lou really is, and Tamara confronts her mom. It's all part of the inevitable finale when the whole cast gets together to to sing the theme summarizing "Common Ground."

The performers are all excellent, but this is hardly ground breaking or extraordinarily fresh. In other words, not likely to be another multiple award winner demanding a second production as has been the case for last year's delightful Desperate Measures That said, it's light-hearted fun, with likeable characters that takes a well-meaning look at the issues that divide modern American families.
Song List: How Do We Go On?
Like a Good Girl
I Think I'm Losing My Voice
Before You Arrive
She's Got a Mind of Her Own
I Don't Want to Get Married
What a Woman Can Do
Better Times Are Comin'
You Are My Worst Nightmare
Unexpected Joy
When Will I Have My Own?
Raising Them Right
Common Ground

Search CurtainUp in the box below Back to Curtainup Main Page

Unexpected Joy
Book and lyrics by Bill Russell
Music by Janet Hood
Directed by Amy Anders Corcoran
Music direction by Beth Falcone
Cast: Courtney Balan as Rachel, Allyson Kaye Daniel as Lou, Luba Mason) as Joy, Celeste Rose as Tamara
Scenic design: James Morgan
Costumes: Matthew Pachtman
Lighting: Ken Wills
Sound: Julian Evans
Properties: Deb Gaouette
Musicians: Beth Falcone-piano/conductor; Brian Hamm-bass;Jack Morer-guitar;Jeff Potter-drums
Stage Manager: Julienne Menassian
Running Time: Approximately 95 minutes without an intermission
From 4/24/18; opening 5/03/18;closing 5/27/18
Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m., Thursdays at 2:30 p.m.*, Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 p.m.* & 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at 5/01/18 press preview

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Unexpected Joy
  • I disagree with the review of Unexpected Joy
  • The review made me eager to see Unexpected Joy
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted at to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter

©Copyright 2018, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from