Caroline, or Change

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Caroline, or Change
MusicJeanine Tesori
LyricsTony Kushner
BookTony Kushner
Productions2003 Off-Broadway
2004 Broadway
2018 West End
2021 Broadway revival
AwardsLaurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical

Caroline, or Change is a musical with music by Jeanine Tesori and lyrics and book by Tony Kushner. The score 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]

Workshops & Off-Broadway[edit]

The musical was first workshopped in 1999[1] 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.[2][3]

Original Broadway Production[edit]

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[4] and nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Original London Production[edit]

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, Clive Rowe as the dryer/bus Joy Malcolm, Ramona Keller, and Nataylia Roni, as the Radio.[5]

2018 London Revival[edit]

A revival was produced at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester as part of Daniel Evans' inaugural season as artistic director of Chichester Festival Theatre, running from 6 May to 3 June 2017. The production was directed by Michael Longhurst, starred Sharon D. Clarke as Caroline and received critical acclaim earning five star reviews.[6] The production transferred with Clarke to the Hampstead Theatre, London from 12 March to 21 April 2018.[7] The production transferred to the West End at the Playhouse Theatre, where it began playing on 20 November 2018, and ran until 2 March 2019, once again starring Clarke.[8]

2021 Broadway Revival[edit]

A Broadway revival by Roundabout Theatre Company based on the Chichester production initially was announced to start previews on March 13, 2020 and open on April 7, 2020, at Studio 54. On March 12, 2020, the show suspended production due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[9][10] Rescheduled previews began October 8, 2021 and it officially opened on October 27 and ran through January 9, 2022.[11] Direction was by Michael Longhurst with choreography by Ann Yee. The revival starred Sharon D. Clarke and Samantha Williams (Emmie).[12]

Regional theatre[edit]

Pinkins and Anika Noni Rose (Emmie Thibodeaux) reprised their roles in late 2004 at the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, California[13] and in January to February 2005 at the Curran Theatre, San Francisco, California.[14] Its premiere in The Washington, D.C., area at The Studio Theatre in 2006, starring Julia Nixon and Max Talisman, received rave reviews,[15] and won The Helen Hayes Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress, Resident Musical (Nixon), and Outstanding Resident Musical.[16] The Chicago premiere at the Court Theatre in fall 2008 earned four Jeff awards[17] 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 to January 2009 with E. Faye Butler;[18] the Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, Minnesota, April to June 2009,[19][20] the Gallery Players, Brooklyn, N.Y., January to February 2010, The Human Race Theatre Company, Dayton, Ohio November 4–20, 2011, and Syracuse Stage (Syracuse, New York) February 1-February 26, 2012.[21] In 2017, the Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland staged it as part of a season with a focus on Tony Kushner plays. Its Colorado regional premiere took place April 5 to May 5, 2019, at the Aurora Fox Arts Center, directed by Kenny Moten and starring Mary Louise Lee as Caroline.[22]

A 2012 production by Acting Up Stage Company in Toronto, Ontario, garnered Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding Production of a Musical, Sterling Jarvis (principal actor), Arlene Duncan (principal actress) and Outstanding Musical Direction (Reza Jacobs).[23] A new production by Acting Up Stage Company, now called The Musical Stage Company, in Toronto, Ontario played January 31 to February 16, 2020, starring Jully Black as Caroline and Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman as The Moon at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres.[24]


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 month, launders clothes in the basement ("16 Feet Beneath The Sea"). Caroline keeps herself sane in the basement by imagining the items in the basement as people ("The Radio"/"Laundry Quintet"). The Gellmans' 8-year-old son Noah, whose mother has recently died of cancer, is attracted to Caroline, a no-nonsense single parent ("Noah Down The Stairs"). Caroline allows Noah to light her one cigarette each day, a secret they can share ("The Cigarette"). Caroline puts the laundry in the dryer and sings about her four kids and cleaning houses for 22 years ("The Dryer"/"I Got Four Kids").

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 Stopnick 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"/"That Can't Be").

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 ("Inside/Outside"/"JFK"). On the front porch of her house, Caroline tells her teenage daughter Emmie that the president is dead. Emmie says she does not care, because JFK never fulfilled his promises to the black community ("No One Waiting"/"Night Mama"). Noah, awake in his bedroom, asks Caroline what laws she would pass if she were president ("Gonna Pass Me a Law"/"Noah Goes To Sleep").

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 and his father, Stuart, have trouble bonding ("Stuart and Noah"). Noah, aware of Caroline's situation, purposefully leaves his candy and comic book money in his pockets, as well as 75 cents ("Quarter in the Bleach Cup"). Caroline feels bad about keeping it, but does so, out of necessity. Caroline brings the money to Emmie, Jackie, and the adorable little Joe who discuss all the things they can do and things they can buy with it ("Caroline Takes My Money Home"/"Roosevelt Petrucius Coleslaw").

Act Two

As Christmas approaches Caroline, ironing clothes in the basement, remembers her ex-husband, who was kind and thoughtful until he became abusive ("Santa Comin' Caroline"/"Little Reward"/"1943"). Rose tells Caroline to keep any money Stuart leaves in his clothes as well but Caroline snaps at Rose saying she does not need her pity or money and threatens her with the iron ("Mr. Gellman's Shirt"/"Ooh Child"). Rose then asks if she, Dotty, and Emmie will work at her upcoming Chanukah party ("Rose Recovers"). Emmie, Jackie, and Joe encourage her to keep taking the laundry money, because the family needs 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 ("I Don't Want My Child To Hear That"/"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. Caroline slaps Emmie ("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 dreams of growing up to be independent and fighting for justice ("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"). Noah and Caroline exchange racial insults, then Caroline returns the money and leaves ("Caroline and Noah Fight"). After five days, Caroline has not returned to work ("Aftermath"). Stuart and Rose find the bill and, in a rare display of parental instincts, confront Noah over what happened, but Noah is saved from punishment when Mr. Stopnick pretends the bill is his, satisfied that Noah learned his lesson. 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 ("Sunday Morning"/"Lot's Wife"). The radio sings of a fierce heartbreak ("Salty Teardrops"). At church, Caroline gives Emmie, Jackie, and Joe fierce hugs and accepts that her children will have better and different lives from the one she has had. ("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 although things will never be the same between them, Noah will learn to live with his sorrow and move on ("Why Does Our House Have a Basement?"/"Underwater"). 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. Jackie and Joe come out to shush her and she tells them that it is up to the children of Caroline Thibedeaux to change the future ("Epilogue").

Musical numbers[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
  • Emmie Thibodeaux: Caroline's 16-year-old free-spirited daughter, supporter of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement
  • 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
  • Dotty Moffett: Friend of Caroline and fellow maid, takes night classes at the University
  • The Radio: Domestic appliance portrayed by a Supremes-like trio, serves as a Greek Chorus for the show
  • 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 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
  • Jackie Thibodeaux: Caroline's 10-year-old son
  • Joe Thibodeaux: Caroline's 8-year-old son
  • Mr. Stopnick: Rose's father, a Jewish man with a socialist ideology from New York City
  • Grandpa Gellman: Noah's grandfather, Stuart's father
  • Grandma Gellman: Noah's grandmother, Stuart's mother

Notable casts[edit]

Character First Reading Second Reading First Workshop Second Workshop Third Workshop Off-Broadway Broadway London Chichester Off-West End Revival First West End Revival First Broadway Revival
1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2006 2017 2018 2021
Caroline Thibodeaux Rosalyn Coleman Williams Tonya Pinkins Sharon D. Clarke
Noah Gellman Adam Lamberg Jonathan Press Harrison Chad Greg Bernstein
Perry Millward
Jonny Weldon
Charlie Gallacher
Daniel Luniku
Charlie Gallacher
Aaron Gelkoff
Isaac Forward
Aaron Gelkoff
Jack Meredit
Jaden Myles Waldman
Gabriel Amoroso
Adam Makke
Emmie Thibodeaux Afi McClendon Pascale Armand Anika Noni Rose Pippa Bennett-Warner Abiona Omonua Samantha Williams
Rose Stopnick Gellman Carrie Preston Veanne Cox Anna Francolini Lauren Ward Caissie Levy
Stuart Gellman Dan Futterman Ben Shenkman Denis O’Hare Adam Grupper David Costabile Richard Henders Alex Gaumond Alastair Brookshaw John Cariani
Dotty Moffett Michael Hyatt Kimberly JaJuan Chandra Wilson Nora Cole Nicola Hughes Naana Agyei-Ampadu Tamika Lawrence
The Radio Ann Duquesnay Tracy Nicole Chapman
Marva Hicks
Ramona Keller
Tracy Nicole Chapman
Marva Hicks
Stacy Francis
Tracy Nicole Chapman
Marva Hicks
Ramona Keller
Ramona Keller
Joy Malcolm
Nataylia Roni
Keisha Amponsa Banson
Gloria Ontiri
Jennifer Saayeng
T’Shan Williams
Sharon Rose
Carole Stennentt
Keisha Amponsa Banson
Dujonna Gift-Simms
Tanisha Spring
Nasia Thomas
Harper Miles
The Washing Machine Noel True Michael Hyatt Capathia Jenkins Malinda Paris Me’sha Bryan Arica Jackson
The Dryer / The Bus Chuck Cooper Tommy Hollis Chuck Cooper Clive Rowe Ako Mitchell Kevin S. McAllister
The Moon Ann Duquesnay Priscilla Baskerville Barbara Conrad Adriane Lenox Aisha de Haas Angela M Caesar N’Kenge
Jackie Thibodeaux Jason Dendy Sean Taylor Chevon Rutty Kevin Ricardo Tate Leon Thomas III Ronald Chabvuka
Louis Ekoku
Mitchell Zhanghaza
James Gava



Kenya Sandy
Mickell Stewart-Grimes
Mark Mwangi
Kenya Sandy
Jeremiah Waysome
Alexander Bello
Joe Thibodeaux Sean Taylor Jeremy Meleek Leggett Phil Harris Marcus Carl Franklin Kazim Benson
Kuan Frye
Jamal Hope
Josiah Choto
Teni Taiwo
Josiah Choto
David Dube
Josiah Choto
David Dube
Raphael Higgins-Hume
Jayden Theophile
Mr. Stopnick David Margulies Larry Keith Hilton McRae Teddy Kempner Chip Zien
Grandma Gellman Sloane Shelton Lola Pashalinski Alice Playten Valda Aviks Beverley Klein Sue Kelvin Joy Hermalyn
Grandpa Gellman Ben Hammer Bill Buell Reathel Bean Ian Lavender Vincent Pirillo Stuart Zagnit

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2004 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Book of a Musical Tony Kushner Nominated
Best Original Score Jeanine Tesori and Tony Kushner 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 Category Nominee Result
2007 Laurence Olivier Awards Best New Musical Won
Best Actress in a Musical Tonya Pinkins Nominated
Best Supporting Performance in a Musical Anna Francolini Nominated

2017 Chichester/Hampstead/West End revival[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2017 UK Theatre Award[25] Best Musical Production Nominated
Best Performance in a Musical Sharon D. Clarke Nominated
BroadwayWorld UK Award[26] Best New Production of a Musical Nominated
2018 Evening Standard Theatre Award[27] Best Musical Nominated
Best Musical Performance Sharon D. Clarke Nominated
2019 Laurence Olivier Award[28] Best Musical Revival Nominated
Best Actress in a Musical Sharon D. Clarke Won
Best Costume Design Fly Davis Nominated
Black British Theatre Award[29] Best Female Actor in a Musical Sharon D. Clarke Won
Stage Debut Award[30] Child Performer of the Year Jack Meredith Nominated

2021 Broadway revival[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2022 Drama League Awards[31] Outstanding Revival of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play Nominated
Distinguished Performance Sharon D. Clarke Nominated
Drama Desk Awards[32]
Outstanding Revival of a Musical Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Sharon D. Clarke Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Awards[33] Outstanding Revival of a Play (Broadway or Off-Broadway) Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Sharon D. Clarke Nominated
Theatre World Award[34] Honoree
Tony Awards[35] Best Revival of a Musical Nominated
Best Actress in a Musical Sharon D. Clarke Nominated
Best Costume Design in a Musical Fly Davis Nominated
2023 Grammy Awards Best Musical Theater Album Princiipal soloists, album producers, composer and lyricist. Nominated


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  3. ^ Brantley, Ben."Theater Review; Outsiders Bond in a South of Roiling Change" The New York Times, December 1, 2003
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  10. ^ BWW News Desk. "Breaking: Roundabout Pushes CAROLINE, OR CHANGE and BIRTHDAY CANDLES to Fall 2020". Retrieved 2020-04-08.
  11. ^ Evans, Greg (2021-05-10). "Roundabout's 'Caroline, Or Change', 'Trouble In Mind', 'Birthday Candles' Announce Broadway Plans". Deadline. Archived from the original on 2021-05-10. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
  12. ^ Clement, Olivia. "Cast Complete for Broadway Revival of 'Caroline, or Change'" Playbill, January 23, 2020
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  16. ^ "Helen Hayes Awards Nominees and Recipients | Washington Theatre Guide | TheatreWashington | Helen Hayes Awards". Archived from the original on 2018-10-24. Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  17. ^ "Jeff Awards". Jeff Awards. Archived from the original on 2012-02-28. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  18. ^ CenterStage listing Archived December 19, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Guthrie listing Archived 2009-05-15 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Guthrie Announces 2008-09 Season of "Firsts," Including Kushner Premiere and Little House Musical" playbill, March 26, 2008
  21. ^ "Greta Oglesby Leads Kushner & TesoriÂ's 'Caroline, or Change' at Syracuse Stage", January 31, 2012
  22. ^ "Aurora Fox ushers in daring new era with ‘Caroline, Or Change’"
  23. ^ Ouzounian, Richard. " 'Crash'; 'Caroline, or Change' and 'Topdog/Underdog' win most Dora Awards" The Star, June 25, 2012
  24. ^ "New Production of 'Caroline or Change'" The Star, May 22, 2019
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  26. ^ BWW News Desk. "Shortlist Announced For The 2017 BroadwayWorld UK Awards; Voting Now Open!". Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  27. ^ "Read the Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2018 shortlist in full". 2018-11-16. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  28. ^ Longman, Will (2019-03-05). "Olivier Awards 2019: Full list of nominations". London Theatre Guide. Retrieved 2019-03-05.
  29. ^ "2019 Winners". Black British Theatre Awards. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  30. ^ "The Stage Debut Awards 2019 winners announced | WhatsOnStage". Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  31. ^ "Nominations Announced for 88th Annual Drama League Awards". Retrieved 2022-04-28.
  32. ^ "66th Drama Desk Awards". Drama Desk Awards. Retrieved 2022-05-16.
  33. ^ BWW, Team. "The Lehman Trilogy, Harmony & Kimberly Akimbo Lead Outer Critics Circle Awards Nominations". Retrieved 2022-04-28.
  34. ^ Theater, Author: New York (2022-05-06). "Theatre World Awards 2022". New York Theater. Retrieved 2022-05-06. {{cite web}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  35. ^ "2022 Tony Award Nominations". Tony Awards. May 9, 2022. Retrieved May 9, 2022.

External links[edit]