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Joy Woods at The Westside Theatre, Little Shop of Horrors Photo Credit: Drew Shade


Count It All Joy! Joy Woods Brings It Full Circle with ‘Little Shop’

On a nice cool Friday afternoon, we got the chance to sit down with Joy Woods, the new star of Little Shop of Horrors (Westside Theatre), right before her put-in rehearsal.

Beginning May 2nd, Woods will step into the role of Audrey. No stranger to Skid Row, she returns to this production after having originated the role of Chiffon in this 2019 Off-Broadway revival. In this interview, she talks about how she got here to this full circle moment, all she’s learned, and how she hopes her work impacts future artists. Check out the full interview below.

“Why not me? What would be the thing that would keep me from doing this?”

Joy Woods
Joy Woods at The Westside Theatre, Little Shop of Horrors Photo Credit: Drew Shade

Broadway Black: Joy! Joy Joy!

Joy Woods: That’s me!

Broadway Black: Talk to me about this full circle moment. How did we get here?

Joy Woods: Well, we opened in 2019. We were in previews when I graduated college (AMDA). I was 19 years old. I was only in school for a year and a half, so there was still so much to learn. And those six months we had to do the show before the pandemic was a dream. We all got so close really fast. We baked bread every day, and we were always laughing. Always, always. And then the pandemic happened. And I had so much life to live because I was 19, freshly 20, and didn’t know what I was doing with my life, with theater, everything. I was go, go, go. I was doing workshops, I did a City center show all right as the pandemic hit. So when we went back in September 2021, I was about to be 22. I’d lived, I’d loved, I’d have my heart broken. I traveled, and I was just a little bit older. We came back. It was really nice to revisit and meet everybody again. By that point, I was in a place where I could do the show and have a life and learn about myself and be a person at the same time while learning how to do all this.

And then it got to a point where one of my deepest fears is like, I’m in a show and I don’t feel like I’m learning anything. And so I asked the producers if I could cover Audrey, and they said yes.

BB: Wow! Girl, What??

JW: Yeah, we were out. And I said  “Why not me? What would be the thing that would keep me from doing this?” COVID was happening, and we were running out of covers, and I was like, I think this is the perfect time for me to say something. And it ended up going well. 

But I think, like, a week after it was added to my contract, I booked SIX (Broadway). So I’d only gotten to go on maybe three or four times before leaving. I’d gotten, like, two and a half rehearsals, and then I was put on, and then we just didn’t have any more rehearsal after that because I was just going on, and it was fine. Because when you’re in the show for three years, you know it you know it like the back of your hand.Which is why the put-in today is hilarious.

And then I left. I did SIX. I learned my voice. I never thought I was much of a singer, but I learned about myself and about my body. And leaving from six to do The Notebook (Chicago), I learned. I loved more, I hurt more, I grew more. And I’m just really grateful for the time that I’ve spent away from Little Shop because it’s made coming back so much sweeter every time. And the last time I was doing Ronnett, and when I left this January, I thought, oh, that’s my last time. And then a week later, they asked if I could come back to do Audrey. And I was like, how much? (laughs)

But yeah, even, like, leaving to do Dreamgirls (North Carolina Theatre), there is so much that I learned.

Read more after the photo gallery

BB: Yes. Dreamgirls. You sounded fantastic. I wish I could have been there. Tamara Jade, who played Effie, is a good friend of mine.

JW: Hopefully, she’ll be here on the 17th. We have a press opening. She’s trying to make it over. But we all got really close there, too. 

I think being in Little Shop was so important in teaching me how to navigate community in a show when these are the people you see every day. You want to act like you’re family, but you need to respect everybody’s boundaries as well. Like, you saw the dressing room. All the girls share one. And the boy’s dressing room, they’re all together, so it can get really ugly really fast. 

But this has been the first time where unrest is something we can navigate together, and I’m really appreciative of that. And I just hope that I can continue to be a role model or a leader in that way, creating community and keeping it intact, and making sure that show’s on stage while also being able to learn and do laundry. 

Like, last night, I was sitting panicking about the put-in, writing in my notes all these thoughts, all these notes that I might have. All this feels good, to grow and learn. I’m really enjoying learning here, and it’s really great that I haven’t stopped learning.

BB: As someone who has now played all of the roles in Little Shop of Horrors, what would be the best piece of advice that you can give to help someone navigate this show?  

JW: I would say that the show itself, the material itself, is so good, all you have to do is listen to what it says, and the missing piece is you. How do I put this? It’s all there. You don’t have to try to dig for anything. There is no secret to doing it right or doing it the best. What’s going to make it the best is the fact that it’s coming from your literal person, how you sound, how you walk, how you think. It’s going to be different for everybody. I know that’s so cliche, but after seeing so many people do the same roles, it’s like each one was magic. They’re doing the same thing, but it’s the individual that’s making it special. And the more you really lean into saying the words the way you do, you’ll be set.

BB: Now, you also talked about how you didn’t consider yourself much of a singer. Where is that coming from?

JW: That was a confidence thing. And it still is. When I did MCC’s Miscast a few weeks ago. We ended up recording it, and it was released today. And even listening to it, I was like, “oh, I don’t know how it feels. I don’t know how it sounds.”  But I just never thought I was much of a singer because I just never thought I would be hired to be anything other than an ensemble dancer.

BB: And so, are you leaning into that now?

JW: I am! Even if I didn’t want to. Last year, I even got tattoos about it. It was special.

BB: What tattoos did you get?

JW: This one is for SIX. It’s got a little six in there. And then I just got a 22. Because I was 22 in 2022, and it was a very intense, special year for all of the reasons.

BB: What did you learn?

JW: Too many lessons! (laughs) I learned the usual early 20s lessons about boundaries and, speaking up for yourself, choosing yourself. Learning how to walk away even when you want something, but you know it’s not good for you. And that goes with relationships and work and habits and all the things. 

Showing up is the hardest part. That’s been a lesson that I’ve been saying for years, but really it came into play last year because when you’re moving that fast, when life keeps giving you these opportunities, you get tired, you get fatigued, you wonder, what was the point? “Am I ready for this? Am I right for this?” But you are! You wouldn’t have been put there if you weren’t. And the only person to shine a light on that is you. You can build community as much as you want. You can receive all the external validation and affirmation from the universe and from the people around you but if you’re not showing up, it doesn’t matter.

BB: Tell me, how do you think being one of the first Black women to play off-Broadway Audrey will affect this community?

JW: I would first like to give a shoutout to Jana Djenne Jackson, who was the first Black woman to go on in this production for Audrey. I’m just the first one to be on stage every day for it. But, I want to give all my props to her because I really did watch and learn from her. Even when she was an urchin, she was so talented and so sweet. Working with her was a dream.

But I would say, we’re making space, y’all. The door is opening, and we’re allowed to walk thru it. Even when it looks like it’s closed, it’s open. Just push it. Closed mouths don’t get fed. We have to keep trying. We’re making our way, and Audrey is Black AF at the Westside Theatre until September. Come see truly one of the funniest shows in New York right now.

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