Caroline, or Change

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Caroline, or Change
Caroline or Change Musical Logo.png
Music Jeanine Tesori
Lyrics Tony Kushner
Book Tony Kushner
Productions 2003 Off-Broadway
2004 Broadway
2006 London
2009 Guthrie Theater
2012 Berkeley Street Theatre
Awards Olivier Award Best Musical

Caroline, or Change is a through-composed musical with book and lyrics by Tony Kushner and score by Jeanine Tesori that combines spirituals, blues, Motown, classical music, and Jewish klezmer and folk music.

The show ran both Off-Broadway and On Broadway as well as in London.

Production history[edit]

The musical was first workshopped in May 1992 at New York's off-Broadway Public Theater. Director George C. Wolfe continued to workshop the musical at the Public Theater, where it opened on November 30, 2003 and closed on February 1, 2004.[1][2]

It transferred to Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on May 2, 2004 and closed on August 29, 2004 after 136 performances and 22 previews. The musical starred Tonya Pinkins in the title role, Anika Noni Rose as Emmie Thibodeaux, Harrison Chad as Noah Gellman, Veanne Cox as Rose Stopnick Gellman and Chandra Wilson as Dotty Moffett. (all both off-and on-Broadway). The choreographer was Hope Clarke; scenic design by Riccardo Hernandez; costume design by Paul Tazewell; and lighting design by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer. Despite its relatively short run, it was critically acclaimed[3] and nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Opening in October 2006, a London production at the National Theatre on the Lyttelton stage, also directed by Wolfe, ran in repertory with Marianne Elliot's production of Thérèse Raquin to January 2007. The production did not transfer to the West End but did win the Olivier Award for Best New Musical. The opening night cast in London starred Tonya Pinkins as Caroline. Other cast members included Pippa Bennett-Warner as Emmie Thibodeaux, Anna Francolini as Rose Stopnick Gellman, Hilton McRae as Mr. Stopnick, Perry Millward, Jonny Weldon and Greg Bernstein alternating as Noah and Clive Rowe as the dryer/bus.[4]

Regional theatre[edit]

Pinkins and Anika Noni Rose (Emmie Thibodeaux) reprised their roles in late 2004 at the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, California[5] and in early 2005 at the Curran Theatre, San Francisco, California.[6] The Chicago premiere at the Court Theatre in fall 2008 earned four Jeff awards,[7] for director Charles Newell, Musical Director Doug Peck, star E. Faye Butler, and best production of a musical at a large scale theater.

Other regional productions have included Center Stage, Baltimore, Maryland, in December 2008-January 2009 with E. Faye Butler;[8] the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota, April–June 2009,[9] the Gallery Players, Brooklyn, N.Y., January–February 2010, The Human Race Theatre Company, Dayton, Ohio November 4–20, 2011., and Syracuse Stage (Syracuse, NY) February 1-February 26, 2012.

A 2012 production by Acting Up Stage Company in Toronto, Ontario garnered Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Sterling Jarvis and Arlene Duncan.[10]

Plot[edit]

Act One

On a hot day in 1963 in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Caroline, a black maid who works for the Gellman family for $30 a week, launders clothes in the basement. ("Scene 1 Washer/Dryer") The Gellmans' 8-year-old son Noah, whose mother has recently died of cancer, is attracted to Caroline, a no-nonsense single parent. Caroline allows Noah to light her one cigarette each day, a secret they can share. ("Noah Down the Stairs") Caroline puts the laundry in the dryer and sings about her four kids and cleaning houses for 22 years. ("Laundry Finish/The Dryer")

Noah's new stepmother Rose cannot give Caroline a raise, but tells her to take some extra food home to her kids; ("Caroline, There's Extra Food") Caroline declines. Noah's father Stuart, despondent since his wife's death, tells Noah he has lost his faith. ("There is No God, Noah") Noah confesses that he hates Rose. ("Rose Stropnick Can Cook") Rose confesses to her father, Mr. Stopnick, that she is unhappy as well. ("Long Distance")

After work, Caroline argues with her friend Dotty about each other's lifestyles. ("Dotty and Caroline") The moon rises as they wait for a bus. ("Moon Change") They discuss the recent mysterious destruction of a statue of a Confederate soldier at the courthouse. ("Moon Trio") The bus arrives with devastating news: President Kennedy has been assassinated. ("The Bus"/The President is Dead")

Rose tells Noah to stop leaving money in his pants pockets, and that any money Caroline finds in his laundry will be hers to keep. ("Noah and Rose") The Gellman family reminisces about the good President Kennedy did for the Jews—and Dotty reminisces about the good he intended to do for African Americans. (Scene Four - Finale") On the front porch of her house, Caroline tells her teenage daughter Emmie that the president is dead. Emmie says she doesn't care, because JFK never fulfilled his promises to the black community. ("Scene Five") Noah, awake in his bedroom, asks Caroline what laws she would pass if she were president. ("Gonna Pass Me a Law")

Rose tells Caroline she is allowed to keep any money she finds in Noah's pants, to supplement her salary and teach Noah a lesson. ("Noah Has a Problem") Noah, aware of her situation, purposefully leaves his candy and comic book money in his pockets. ("The Bleach Cup") Caroline feels bad about keeping it, but does so, out of necessity. ("Scene 6 - Finale")

Act Two

Caroline, ironing clothes in the basement, remembers her ex-husband, who was kind and thoughtful until he became abusive. ("Ironing") Rose tells Caroline to keep any money Stuart leaves in his clothes as well, ("Mr. Gellman's Shirt"/"Ooh Child"), then asks if she, Dotty, and Emmie will work at her upcoming Chanukah party. ("Rose Recovers")("Dryer Gloria") Caroline's kids encourage her to keep taking the laundry money, because they need it. ("I Saw Three Ships")

At the Chanukah party, Noah educates Emmie about the holiday. ("The Chanukah Party") Rose shoos Noah out of the kitchen, ("Noah, Out! It's Very Rude") and Dotty tells Emmie about the courthouse statue. ("Dotty and Emmie") When Mr. Stopnick belittles Martin Luther King Jr.'s nonviolent civil disobedience, Emmie tells him white people have no right to be critical. ("Mr. Stopnick and Emmie") Mr. Stopnick is impressed with Emmie's bravado, but Caroline tells her she cannot talk that way to white people; Emmie retorts that slavery is over. ("Kitchen Fight") Mr. Stopnick's Chanukah present to Noah is a $20 bill, intended as a life lesson about money and its value. ("A Twenty Dollar Bill and Why") At the bus stop, Emmie says she wants a car and a big house when she grows up. ("I Hate the Bus") Back at the house, Stuart laments that he can give neither Rose nor Noah what they need. ("Moon, Emmie, Stuart Trio")

Noah inadvertently leaves the $20 bill in his pants; after school he rushes to the basement, but Caroline has found it and says she is keeping it, per their agreement. ("The Twenty Dollar Bill"/"The Clock") Noah and Caroline exchange racial insults, then Caroline returns the money and leaves. ("Caroline and Noah Fight") After three days, Caroline has not returned to work. ("Aftermath") That Sunday on her way to church, Caroline realizes that the laundry money had only fostered greed and hatefulness; she asks God to free her from earthly desires. ("Lot's Wife") At church, Caroline gives Emmie a fierce hug. ("How Long Has This Been Going On?")

Noah finally lets Rose tuck him into bed and kiss him goodnight. Caroline returns to work and assures Noah that they'll be friends again. ("Why Does Our House Have a Basement?") Emmie reveals that she helped take down the Confederate soldier statue, and proudly sings that she is the daughter of a maid, but she will continue to work for a greater cause, and her children will have a brighter future. ("Emmie's Dream/Epilogue")

Musical numbers[edit]

Characters[edit]

  • Caroline Thibodeaux: 39-year-old African-American maid for the Gellmans, a middle-class Jewish family
  • Noah Gellman: The Gellmans' 8-year-old curious, sympathetic, and neurotic son
  • Rose Stopnick Gellman: Noah's concerned new stepmother from New York City, marries Stuart after his first wife's death
  • Stuart Gellman: Professional clarinet player and Noah's father, mourning the loss of his wife
  • Emmie Thibodeaux: Caroline's 16-year-old free-spirited daughter, supporter of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement
  • Dotty Moffett: Friend of Caroline and fellow maid, takes night classes at the University
  • The Washing Machine: Domestic appliance portrayed by an actor, cleans clothes for the Gellmans and pushes Caroline to move forward in life
  • The Dryer: Domestic appliance portrayed by an actor, torments Caroline throughout the show
  • The Radio: Domestic appliance portrayed by a Supremes-like trio, serves as a Greek Chorus for the show
  • The Moon: Portrayed by an actor, is a calming and healing presence throughout the show
  • The Bus: Portrayed by an actor, is the primary source of transportation for the African-American characters in the show
  • Mr. Stopnick: Rose's father, a conservative Jewish man from New York City
  • Grandpa and Grandma Gellman: Noah's grandparents, Stuart's parents
  • Jackie Thibodeaux: Caroline's young son
  • Joe Thibodeaux: Caroline's young son

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2004 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Book of a Musical Tony Kushner Nominated
Best Original Score Jeanine Tesori Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Tonya Pinkins Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Anika Noni Rose Won
Best Direction of a Musical George C. Wolfe Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Nominated
Outstanding Book of a Musical Tony Kushner Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Tonya Pinkins Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Anika Noni Rose Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical George C. Wolfe Nominated
Outstanding Music Jeanine Tesori Won

Original London production[edit]

Year Award Ceremony Category won Result
2007 Laurence Olivier Award Best New Musical Won

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jones, Kenneth."Before Broadway, Caroline, or Change Ends Public Theater Run Feb. 1; Final Weekend Sold Out" Archived October 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. playbill.com, February 1, 2004
  2. ^ Brantley, Ben."Theater Review; Outsiders Bond in a South of Roiling Change" The New York Times, December 1, 2003
  3. ^ Sommer, Elyse."A CurtainUp Review: 'Caroline, or Change' " curtainup.com, May 3, 2004
  4. ^ Billington, Michael."Review:'Caroline, or Change' " The Guardian, October 20, 2006
  5. ^ Summary of article from Los Angeles Sentinel, December 15, 2004 highbeam.com
  6. ^ Playbill, September 16, 2004[permanent dead link] playbill.com
  7. ^ "Jeff Awards". Jeff Awards. Retrieved 2012-02-09. 
  8. ^ CenterStage listing Archived December 19, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. centerstage.org
  9. ^ Guthrie listing guthrietheater.org
  10. ^ "‘Crash,’ ‘Caroline, or Change’ big winners at Dora Mavor Moore theatre awards". Canadian Press, June 25, 2012.

External links[edit]