Unexpected Joy
by Ground Floor Theatre

Dec. 02 - Dec. 19, 2021

Michelle Alexander (photo via GFT)

(via GFT)Unexpected Joy tells the story of three generations of female singers, long-held family tensions, and a week together where change is in the air. 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.

Book and lyrics by Tony Award-nominated Bill Russell and music by Janet Hood.

Starring Michelle Alexander as Lou, Caroline Mullins as Tamara, Amber Quick as Rachel, and Cathie Sheridan as Joy.


CTXLT review by Dr. David Glen Robinson

Review by Bob Adelman for the Austin Chronicle, December 10, 2021

Review by Amy Tarver for Broadway World, Austin, December 17, 2021


Michelle Alexander, Cathie Sheridan (photo via GFT)

Directed by Co-Artistic Director Lisa Scheps, the production team includes music direction by Kelsey Kimble; scenic design by Gary Thornsberry; lighting design by Jacqueline Sindelar; graphic design by Erica Moreno; and Remy Joslin as the production stage manager.

Costume design by Pam Fletcher-Friday, properties design by Patti Neff-Tiven, Kellan diDonato as technical director. Stage management by Lindsey Ollinger.

“Janet Hood and I are delighted that Ground Floor Theatre will present our musical Unexpected Joy in December,” said creator Bill Russell. “The show opened off-Broadway and in London not long before the pandemic hit, so this is one of the first productions since those premieres. In these highly divisive times, we hope Austin audiences will find common ground through music and laughter with our all-woman cast.”

"‘I have loved Bill Russell’s work for a long time and with Unexpected Joy we now get a chance to work directly with him,” said director and GFT Co-Artistic Director Lisa Scheps. “This show touches my heart in so many ways and GFT will bring that heart and soul of Bill and Janet’s work to Austin audiences."


Lisa Scheps

Music Director

Kelsey Kimble


Joy                     Cathie Sheridan

Lou                     Michelle Alexander

Rachel                Amber Quick

Tamara               Caroline Mullins

Scenic Design

Gary Thornsberry

Lighting Design

Jacqueline  Sindelar

Costume Design

Pamela Fletcher-Friday

Graphic Design

Erica Moreno

Production Stage Manager

Remy Joslin



Bill Russell (Book and Lyrics) received Tony Award nominations for the book and lyrics of the original Broadway production of Side Show (1997). The revised version played the La Jolla Playhouse, the Kennedy Center and received an acclaimed Broadway revival in 2014 and a London premiere at the Southwark Playhouse in 2017. Mr. Russell co-wrote the book and lyrics for Off Broadway’s long-running musical Pageant and directed it in the Fringe and West End in London and at theaters around America. He authored the book and lyrics for Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens (music by Janet Hood), directing it in London’s Fringe and West End, among many others. At the end of 2020, he co-directed a streamed version featuring 51 stars of theater, tv and film including Nathan Lane, Cynthia Nixon, Fran Drescher, JK Simmons and Norm Lewis as a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Other musicals for which he authored book and lyrics include Up in the Air (Kennedy Center) and the off-Broadway musicals The Last Smoker in America, Lucky Duck, Fourtune and The Texas Chainsaw Musical.  Brave New World (lyrics) had its world premiere in Asheville, NC in 2016 and Unexpected Joy premiered in New York and London in 2018. He has honorary doctorates from the Boston Conservatory and Morningside College and was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2016. More atwww.billrussell.net.


Janet Hood (Music) has performed as pianist and singer and has played on many albums, including her own, Jade and Sarsaparilla. She has toured throughout Cape Cod and New England and performed on local and national television. Janet composed the music for Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens (book/lyrics by Bill Russell) which has been produced around the U.S. and U.K., Tel Aviv and Sydney among many others. A streamed version of that show featuring 51 stars of theater, t.v. and film was shown in early December of 2020 as a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Her theater credits include keyboards for Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Guys and Dolls, Anything Goes, A Chorus Line, The Women and Big River. She has performed with the Boston Pops and was musical director of Elegies … at the King’s Head Theatre in London, the off-Broadway show Fourtune, and Nightriders in Portsmouth, N.H. Janet has toured with Ronnie Gilbert and Holly Near and has accompanied Ronnie Gilbert in her one-woman show American Agitator.


Lisa Scheps (Director and Co-Artistic Director of Ground Floor Theatre) Lisa brings her multiple talents to Austin from a long career in New York and Chicago. She has the unique distinction of playing the camel’s rear end on Broadway. At GFT, Lisa has directed many shows including Parade, Gibberish Mostly, Fun Home (B. Iden Payne Best Director), Next to Normal (B.Iden Payne Best Director) and TRANSom. She has been named best Director by the Austin Chronicle for the past three years. Lisa is also the creator and host of Off Stage and On The Air, a radio show that focuses on theatre, and she lives in Southeast Austin with her dog, Sofi. She spends her time doing theatre, her radio show, and supports myriad of political and social justice causes.



Unexpected Joy
Ground Floor Theatre

December 02 - December 19, 2021
Ground Floor Theatre
979 Springdale Rd
Austin, TX, 78702


Unexpected Joy | December 2–19, 2021

Performances are Thursday through Saturday nights at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 5:00 PM. The “First Friday” performance on December 3 includes a reception. One Wednesday industry performance on December 8 at 8:00 PM.

Talkbacks with community partners will be held after certain performances with dates and partners to be announced shortly. 

Performances run at Ground Floor Theatre, 979 Springdale Road, Austin, TX at the corner of Springdale and Airport. 

Ground Floor Theatre believes in “theatre for everyone,” regardless of ability to pay, so tickets are always “Pay What You Can”. Suggested ticket prices are $25 for general admission and $40 for VIP. VIP seating includes a reserved seat, a glass of bubbly and the assurance of helping GFT keep the “Pay What You Can” policy. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at groundfloortheatre.org/joy.

Covid 19 Mitigation

GFT reassess this on a weekly basis and changes based on CDC and City of Austin guidance.

​Current as of Oct 2021: GFT will have strict Covid 19 protocols in place, including requiring proof of vaccination or recent negative Covid 19 test, requiring masks for ALL patrons in the theatre except while ACTIVELY eating or drinking, limited socially distanced seating, HEPA filtration, and touchless check-in and ticketing.