Home » London Theatre Reviews » Unexpected Joy at Southwark Playhouse | Review

Unexpected Joy at Southwark Playhouse | Review

L-R Jodie Jacobs (Rachel), Janet Fullerlove (Joy), Kelly Sweeney (Tamara) & Melanie Marshall (Lou) - Unexpected Joy at Southwark Parkhouse (c) Pamela Raith Photography
L-R Jodie Jacobs (Rachel), Janet Fullerlove (Joy), Kelly Sweeney (Tamara) & Melanie Marshall (Lou) – Unexpected Joy at Southwark Parkhouse (c) Pamela Raith Photography

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 laughter, 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 larger-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.

5 Star Rating

Review by Amanda Reynolds

Unexpected Joy is the story of three generations of female singers, long-held family tensions and a week together where change is in the air – Joy, a baby boomer pop star, is visited by her daughter, Rachel and granddaughter Tamara. Rachel is married to a prominent televangelist, so Joy is reluctant to divulge that she’s planning to marry Lou, another singer who happens to be a woman. A week with all four together is bound to lead to tension, laughter, discoveries and happiness that really is unexpected. Let the sparks and music fly!

Through laughter, tears, self-discovery, and an original and compelling score, Unexpected Joy encourages its characters, as well as the audience, to take a journey of self-discovery because, at the end of the day, we really are all just one big family.

Creative Team
Director – Amy Anders Corcoran
Musical Director – Gareth Bretherton
Designer – Verity Johnson
Lighting Designer – Nic Farman
Sound Designer – James Nicholson
Casting Director – Jane Deitch
General Manager for Aria Entertainment – Chris Matanlé

Cast: Janet Fullerlove, Jodie Jacobs, Melanie Marshall, Kelly Sweeney

Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment and Kierstead Productions present
Unexpected Joy
Book and Lyrics by Bill Russell, Music by Janet Hood
5 – 29 SEP 2018
Start Time 8pm
Matinee Starts 3:30pm (Sunday matinees 3pm)
Running Time 100 mins


Scroll to Top