Though she’s expecting a baby, Weehawkenite and Broadway star Joi Price never thought she’d be expecting at the same time as her childhood friend Suzanne Carrico. Nor did she think they’d haul their pregnant bodies on stage together.
Both women grew up together in Flint, Mich. Then, two years ago, Price saw her friend’s name on the New York City Metropolitan Room marquis.
“I thought, ‘I know this woman. I just have to go,’ ” Price said, and their friendship was immediately rekindled. They also began to perform together.
Carrico was married last December, and in January, she approached Price and said, “I have something to tell you.” Carrico was pregnant with her first child.
“It’s been wonderful to be able to fill the waiting [for birth] with musical expression of the experience.” – Joi Price
“The subject had already been picked out of us,” Price laughed. “Something this special only comes up so often. To be going through our pregnancy and doing a performance together about the experience is truly extraordinary.”
And so their cabaret revue “Great Expectations” was born.
Price left Flint behind for the big city to pursue a career in musical theatre. She sang in small productions until her big break in 2000 when she became an understudy in “Ragtime.”
Two years later she joined the tour of the Broadway production of “Mama Mia.” Shortly thereafter, she was cast in the on-Broadway production, playing the supporting lead role of Allie.
“It’s not unusual for a touring actor to be cast in the Broadway version,” Price explained. “If a slot opens up and it’s similar to what you’ve been doing, they already know that you can get the job done.”
Her grueling eight-performance-per-week schedule continued even after she became pregnant with Alexa, which means that her daughter has also had something of a Broadway career.
“She actually has a small role in the concert coming up,” Price said. Alexa will be on stage with her mother and even sing a line or two during the song “Mama Will Provide.”
“In part because of the show, we’ve been talking so much about family and the fact that she’ll have a little brother soon,” she said. “She talks to the belly, and so far, we haven’t seen any sibling rivalry yet.”
What to expect
Putting “Great Expectations” together has helped both her and Carrico’s family get used to the idea of the new lives they will be bringing into the world. The show is made up of musical theatre classics, some of which Carrico and Price have reworded to better fit the theme of family.
Though the songs may not necessarily have been written to reflect the experience of childbirth, when presented in that light, they are easily taken that way. Like the song “Today is the First Day of the Rest of My Life,” from the musical revue “Starting Here, Starting Now,” for instance.
“When you’re singing it this way,” Price said, “once the baby gets here it’s hard to remember what it was like before the child arrived. I’ve loved this song for other firsts in my life, like graduating from college or the times I’ve moved, but now it’s a whole new meaning.”
Then there’s the hit song “When You’re Good to Mama” from “Chicago,” which was originally written about a female prison guard who exchanges favors with inmates. They’ve tweaked it just a bit for family purposes. For instance, “You do one for Mama; she’ll give birth for you;” or, “Do this thing for Mama; we’ll do Lamaze for you.”
“We’ve taken some liberties,” Price laughed. “I hope the lyricists don’t shudder when they hear it.”
The show includes other songs, like the classic tearjerker from Disney’s “Dumbo” called “Baby of Mine,” which Dumbo’s mother sings to him as she rocks him with her trunk through the bars of her circus cage. All in all, the show is a musical expression of the women’s past, immediate, and future experiences.
“Music has always been the easiest way for me to express myself,” Price explained. “It’s been wonderful to be able to fill the waiting with musical expression of the experience.”
The show debuts on July 29, and Price is seven months pregnant, so by the time she performs her final of three performances on Aug. 12, she’ll be close to the moment when she could feasibly give birth.
“My greatest hope is that my due date comes after the final performance,” Price laughed. “While it would certainly make headlines, I’d much rather give birth in the safety of St. Luke’s.”
Which isn’t too far away from the theatre, so either way, Price will be covered.
“Great Expectations” will run three nights at the Metropolitan Room at 34 West 22nd St. in New York City. The July 29 and Aug. 12 performances begin at 7 p.m., and the Aug. 5 performance is at 4 p.m. “for mothers and friends who may not want to stay up so late,” Price said.
For more information, visit metropolitanroom.com or call (212) 206-0440.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org