The 2015 film Joy starring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Bradley Cooper, told how the title character rose to be a famous and wealthy businesswoman, against all odds, through her creation and marketing of her invention, the Miracle Mop. Joy, the Musical follows the basic story, with a darker, more toxic family for Joy Mangano to deal with. We meet the mother, divorced, refusing to leave the house, or to cook or clean, sitting in her bathrobe all day watching TV. Her shady dad decides to stay over as a guest for a few weeks. Both mom and dad did not have an amicable divorce, so they butt heads. We then meet Joy’s divorced husband who lives in the basement, rent free, and gets money from Joy to go on acting auditions. Topping this toxic troupe is Joy’s 10-year-old daughter who insults, belittles, and disrespects her mother. All family members use and abuse Joy’s good nature, treating her like a doormat. Her needy, self-absorbed loved ones cause Joy to be late for work again, and she is fired from her job. Needless to say, her family is outraged because their meal ticket no longer can support them all. As her loving mother says, “You better hurry up and get another job!” as she cuddles up on the sofa in her robe. Any other battered woman may have contemplated suicide or just walking away. Not Joy. Desperation made her go for broke, and follow her creative talents to create The Miracle Mop.
Now you may think, this is a feel-good, feminist, musical? Well, it does get better. Badia Farha as Ronni is a smart, sassy, and together woman who knows a lot and is extremely valuable as she befriends Joy at QVC. Her scenes with Joy are a treasure. Ronni is truly the feminist, empowered woman of 1991, when the musical is set.
The music is extremely dramatic most of the time, delivered in a belting style with audience pleasing climaxes. A few times we have a quiet number which you will appreciate, amidst the yelling, angry, and defiant anthems. The cast is up to the challenge, acting and singing their hearts out. The live orchestra under the direction of Rick Edinger sounded huge in this intimate space, playing with fervor and brio. The Elizabeth Ross Johnson Theatre has 465 seats. There isn’t a bad seat in the house. It is a real jewel.
Joy, the Musical looks beautiful. Scenic Design by Anna Louizos is spectacular. Clever segues are silently and swiftly accomplished. Direction by Casey Hushion is lickety-split, with Choreography by Joshua Bergasse adding intensity at key moments. The QVC boardroom with its dancing board members is a highpoint, visually, musically, and choreographically.
The George Street Playhouse, part of the NBPAC, has given Joy, the Musical, a lavish production with talented actors, dancers, and creative talent you must see if you love the musical theater.
Visit www.GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org or call 732-246-7717 for information and tickets.
Next will be Lynn Nottage’s Clyde’s, on stage in January.