Unexpected Joy – Review


Unexpected Joy: Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed 7th September 2018


Unexpected Joy tells the story of three generations of female singers and a week together where change is in the air. The three characters embark on a personal journey  through laugher, tension, tears and self-discovery. With an original score by Janet Hood and Book and Lyrics by Bill Russell this production produced by Aria Entertainment marks the musical’s UK Premiere.

This fresh, new musical focuses on acceptance and differences, family difficulties and prejudices. However, the fresh way in which it deals with these issues through the perspectives of three generations of the same family is a novel concept and works really well. It is a humorous and emotional story as the audience are introduced to Joy, the freedom fighting, hippy ‘Glam-ma’. Rachel, her straight laced, highly religious daughter. Tamara, Rachel’s energetic, free-spirited teenage daughter and Lou, Joy’s fiancé and ‘lesbian warrior’. The four characters bounce off each other fantastically and the relationship between them onstage is terrific.

The four female cast members work the small stage extremely well to tell this colourful story. Janet Fullerlove fully embodies the character of Joy. Her comic timing is fantastic and the country-folk edge to her voice is lovely. In contrast to this, Jodie Jacob’s pure, belting vocals are brilliant and her uptight demeanour counteracts Joy’s ‘alternative’ style superbly. Tamara, played brilliantly by Kelly Sweeney, adds the younger, innocent perspective. Her ability to move the audience during the emotional song ‘When Will I Have My Own’ is a particular highlight. The harmonies between Joy, Rachel and Tamara during the moving songs ‘I Think I’m Losing My Voice’ and ‘Before You Arrive’ are gorgeous. Then there’s Lou, played fantastically by Melanie Marshall. Lou adds another dynamic to the story and what a great dynamic it is. She is funny, full of attitude and not afraid to say her piece. Certainly a crowd pleaser, Melanie Marshall’s rich, soulful voice compliments the others brilliantly.

With a varied, uplifting, emotive score from cheerful, catchy numbers, to emotional, powerful songs and a fresh plot Unexpected Joy is just that: unexpected. What starts out very lighthearted and funny quickly becomes more than that, and draws the audience in. This is a very effective piece of theatre and the direction by Amy Anders Corcoran allows the large-than-life characters to become completely relatable and realistic. Unexpected Joy is full of heart and it’s hard not to feel empathy for each one of them, for very different reasons. In conclusion, this latest musical produced by Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment is sure to be yet another hit to add to her ever-growing list. Make sure to pay Unexpected Joy a visit during its limited run at Southwark Playhouse.

Unexpected Joy is playing at the Southwark Playhouse until the 29th September. For information or tickets click here.

This review was originally written for and published by LondonTheatre1

Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

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