Interview: Joy Woods of North Carolina Theatre's DREAMGIRLS

She's gone from being a street urchin to a Queen to a Dreamette!

By: Feb. 02, 2023
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Interview: Joy Woods of North Carolina Theatre's DREAMGIRLS

From February 7th-12th, North Carolina Theatre will be presenting DREAMGIRLS at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, which is located inside Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. I had the great pleasure of interviewing actress Joy Woods, who will be taking on the role of Deena Jones. Some of her previous credits include the Off-Broadway revival of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, the Broadway production of SIX, and most recently the world premiere stage musical adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' THE NOTEBOOK in Chicago.

To start things off, how are rehearsals going?
JW: It's going well. We're here for three weeks. The show runs from February 7th to February 12th, so these two weeks leading up to them is a lot of tacking it all in. As we all know, Dreamgirls
is a monster. So putting it together is taking all of our energy and all of our effort. There's a lot of sweating and a lot of laughing. I'm having a lot of fun.

How has it been getting to work with your fellow cast members and creative team?
JW: It's my first time doing a show with all brown skin people. To be able to be enmeshed in that genre of community has been really fun. Everybody here is so kind and so hilarious. I'm still learning everyone, but I'm adoring all of the little bits of pieces that I'm getting from everyone while I'm here.

Would you mind telling us about your character? Which according to your bio happens to be a dream role of yours.
JW: Yeah. The three Dreamettes are from Chicago. I happen to be from Chicago. Deena Jones is just a very hungry girl. She wants to be a star. She wants to sing with her two best friends in a group. As their notoriety begins to grow, she's put in a situation where she's put in the front and has conflicts with her friends about who gets to be the lead singer. Then suddenly, her career takes off. At the end of the day, all she really wanted was to succeed with her friends and to come up in the world with her friends. She has these dreams and aspirations like acting. She wasn't necessarily a singer, but she wanted to be her performer instead. These are just all things that I can identify with and hold very dearly to me. I care about Deena very much.

What was your familiarity with DREAMGIRLS prior to this?
JW: To be completely honest, I always very much adored Dreamgirls
, but I didn't know it very well. When I actually found out that I was going to be doing this show, it came to me that I should probably watch and dive into it. Then I just started falling in love with The show. It was always around growing up because it's Dreamgirls. You see the movie, you know the movie. You love Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose, Jamie Foxx, and Eddie Murphy. Getting to dive into it was a really special experience.

So many actresses have played Deanna Jones over the years. Among them are Sheryl Lee Ralph in the original Broadway cast, Audra McDonald in a 2001 concert presentation, and the aforementioned Beyoncé in the 2006 film adaptation. How do you make it your own?
JW: Oh my goodness. I've done a lot of soaking and sponging in all of their performances and finding where you can see when you're listening or watching their productions, where they've decided who they think Deena is. It comes across in very specific moments of the show. That was kind of a greenlight for me to take what they've done and have freedom to be in that situation. I just want to honor them and do my own thing. At no point would I ever be Beyoncé, Audra McDonald, or Sheryl Lee Ralph, but I can honor them.

Going back to the beginning, how did you first get started in the theatre?
JW: A good question. I think music was always a part of my family growing up. I grew up in church and then I started dancing when I was a kid in a little ballet class with the pink tutus. Eventually this middle school held auditions for a musical and I thought I could do it. It was on and off like an extracurricular activity until high school. Somewhere in there, things started going well with the musicals that were happening at school and I thought, "Maybe I could do this for a living." It seems to have worked out thus far.

What was your first major credit on your resume?
JW: Little Shop
. I went to AMDA in New York. During our last semester, I ended up in front of an agent that I am still signed with that I love very much. The next day after meeting them, they sent me in and before I knew it, I was in the production. We did it for six months before the pandemic and then after I went back in. Before I came here, I was actually in the show this winter season. I was back there playing a different urchin than I started with because Little Shop is Home. That's my family.

Last year, you got to spend a few months in the Broadway production of SIX. What was it like getting to be a part of that show?
JW: Oh my goodness. It was a Broadway debut, so it was a dream. It was also a nightmare because it was a Broadway debut. It was a very fast rehearsal experience. I learned the show with the Queens that are on the Aragon tour. So as they were learning it, I was just sort of in the corner and the back, just like learning the moves behind them. Before I knew it, I was getting my wig put on backstage for the debut. It was very scary. If you've seen Six
, you know that it's a lot of lights, a lot of big sounds, a lot of flashy flashes. If you aren't aware of that in the first place, it's just as jarring to the people on stage as it is to the people in the audience. You get used to it. I soaked it all in very fast and it was truly such a special experience. I learned so much. Those girls became my sisters very quickly, and they still are. I cherish that section of my life very dearly.

As I mentioned earlier, you appeared in the world premiere of THE NOTEBOOK musical, which had an original score written by Ingrid Michaelson. How exciting was it to be part of the process of putting together a new musical?
JW: Well, the musical had already been in development for a few years. I just joined a few weeks before we started rehearsals, or maybe maybe a month or so. I was very new to the whole thing. I didn't know much about it. I only had the script and a few songs, but they all welcomed me in so warmly and so lushly. So immediately and effectively, we all got very close, very quickly. It was truly an amazing group of people. I really gotta hand it to the casting and to the team for cultivating this environment that we all could not only build this incredible of a show and be trusted with this incredible piece of art. We also took care of each other in ways that I haven't seen in the company before. We're all very close because of that. I learned a lot about growing up, about being a human, about being a woman, about being a performer, about being part of a community that we can build together on. It was very special.

For those who'd like to have a career in the theatre, where do you think would be a good place to start?
JW: That is a great question. Honestly, I'm still figuring out how to answer it because I got so fortunate with the way that I broke into the industry. I probably sound like a broken record from all the things you hear online and from the people around you. However, what is meant for you will be for you. If you feel in your deepest part of yourself that this is where you're meant to be, you're right. Sometimes the world will put obstacles, we'll put walls in front of you simply as a test to see if you can power through and show you that this is where you deserve to be.

Before we go, do you have any other upcoming projects that you'd like to share with us?
JW: I do want to do some shameless plugging and say that North Carolina Theater produces all of its shows in house. Dreamgirls
is no exception. We're putting together the entire show in two weeks. Broadway caliber shows in North Carolina's own backyard. besides Dreamgirls, I don't have anything coming up until Notebook gets mounted again. We will see when that happens. Until then, I'm just gonna cherish the time that we had daily.

Joy, I thank you very much for devoting your time to this interview. It was great getting to talk to you.
JW: Oh my goodness. Thank you so much!

Be sure to catch North Carolina Theatre's production of DREAMGIRLS from February 7th-12th. For more information, please visit:


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