Unexpected Joy

Bill Russell, Janet Hood

Full Length Musical, Dramatic Comedy  /  4f

Book and Lyrics by Bill Russell / Music by Janet Hood

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. 
Unexpected Joy
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  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
  • Duration
    90 minutes
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    • Adult
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, sparks fly as one family seeks to find the common ground in their different values, dreams, and goals. A heartfelt and hilarious 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 in decades.

Unnexpected Joy made its world premiere on July 21, 2016 at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (WHAT) on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The show premiered Off-Broadway at the York Theatre on April 24, 2018.


Performing Groups
  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre
  • Professional Theatre
  • Large Stage
  • Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups

Licence details

  • Licensing fees and rental materials quoted upon application.



  • Time Period: Contemporary, Present Day
  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Setting: Provincetown, Massachusetts. The Present.
  • Features / Contains: Contemporary Costumes / Street Clothes


Cast Attributes
  • Role(s) for Black Actor(s)
  • All Female
  • Strong Role for Leading Woman (Star Vehicle)

JOY – A baby boomer of great warmth and exuberance. She is a folk/rock star from the late sixties and beyond. An off-beat bohemian who has always marched to the beat of her own drum, she is at a major turning point after losing her songwriting and life partner.

RACHEL – Joy’s daughter, who rebelled against her parents’ hippie- musician, free-love lifestyle and married a televangelist on whose show she frequently sings. She has kept her distance from her mother and is sincere about her faith and raising her daughter in it. She always tries to personify the joy Jesus has brought into her life.

TAMARA – Rachel’s daughter, who has just graduated from high school. She has started writing and performing her own music, which she won’t share with her mother because it’s not at all what her parents feature on their TV show. She adores her grandmother and dreams of being a professional musician. Like all teenagers yearning to break free; she can be snippy with her mother.

LOU – Joy’s “unexpected” girlfriend. An African-American blues and R&B singer who records on an independent label. An unapologetic lesbian and activist, she wants Joy to marry her partly to make a political statement. She is outspoken, sometimes outrageous, and eager to call it like she sees it.


  • Musical Style: Pop/Rock, Contemporary Broadway
  • Dance Requirements: Easy
  • Vocal Demands: Moderate
  • Chorus Size: No Chorus
“How Do We Go On?” - Joy, Backup Singers
“Like A Good Girl” - Tamara
“I Think I’m Losing My Voice” - Joy, Rachel, Tamara
“Before You Arrive” - Joy, Rachel, Tamara
“She’s Got A Mind Of Her Own” - Lou
“I Don’t Wanna Get Married” - Joy
“What A Woman Can Do” - Joy, Rachel, Tamara, Lou
“Better Times Are Comin’” - Rachel, Choir

“You Are My Worst Nightmare” - Rachel, Lou

“Unexpected Joy” - Joy, Lou

“When Will I Have My Own” - Tamara 

“Raising Them Right” - Rachel
Common Ground” - Joy, Rachel, Tamara, Lou 

“Unexpected Joy (Bow Version)” - Joy, Rachel, Tamara, Lou




Additional Resources And Services Available



“An outstanding new musical… strikes quite the unexpected chord. Go see this show!” – Theater That Matters

“Will make audiences jump with Unexpected Joy!” – New York Stage Review

“Pulses with energy, love, humor and compassion. A welcome reminder that discovering a new musical is one of the great joys of theatre.” – Show Showdown

“Rousing… light-hearted fun that takes a well-meaning look at issues that divide modern American families.” – CurtainUp

“Sweet, funny and very entertaining!” – BroadwayWorld


  • Unexpected Joy - Promo

  • Unexpected Joy - Sneak Peek

  • Unexpected Joy - Meet the Creatives

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Bill Russell

Bill Russell wrote the book and lyrics for the critically acclaimed Broadway musical Side Show, receiving a Tony nomination for book and sharing a nomination with composer Henry Krieger for score. He also directed that show at the Park Square Theatre in St. Paul and Morningside College in S ...

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Janet Hood

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