“Change come fast and change come slow, but change come.” Change is coming to us all in a way, so step back in time with Studio 54, to 1963 Louisiana, and experience for yourself a provocative story of political change, social change… and pocket change. Winner of the Olivier Award for Best New Musical and with performances that’ll take your breath away, CAROLINE, OR CHANGE is an imaginative and moving story of strength, revolution and hope. Don’t miss a career-defining central performance from Olivier Award winning Best Actress Sharon D. Clarke in the five-star musical which changes everything.
“MUST SEE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR” – The Telegraph
“Exceptional revival of a powerful and innovative drama” – The Telegraph
“★★★★★ voice full of raw soul that shreds the heart, and sets it soaring” – Times
“Of anything I’ve ever done, I’m proudest of Caroline, or Change” – Tony Kushner
Cast yourself back to 1963, the Gellman family and their African-American maid, Caroline, live in sleepy Lake Charles, Louisiana. Caroline is drifting through life as a single mother of four working, for the last 22 years, in a service job to a white family. A fragile, yet beautiful friendship develops between the young Gellman son, Noah, and Caroline. Noah’s stepmother, Rose, unable to give Caroline a raise, tells Caroline that she may keep the money that Noah leaves in his pockets. Caroline balks and refuses to take money from a child but her own children desperately need food, clothing and shoes. What choice does she have really? So, 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, aware of her situation, purposefully leaves his candy and comic book money in his pockets, as well as seventy-five cents and when Caroline brings the money home to her children Emmie, Jackie, and Joe, they discuss all the things they can do and things they can buy with it.
Outside of the laundry room some of the greatest social advancements that the country has seen are being set in motion, and change is knocking on the door. First there is the mysterious destruction of a statue of a Confederate soldier at the courthouse and, later, the devastating news that President Kennedy has been assassinated!
As Christmas approaches, Caroline, Dotty and Emmie, are asked to work the Gellman family Chanukah party and while there, Mr. Stopnick belittles Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent civil disobedience, Emmie tells him white people have no right to be critical, he is impressed with Emmie’s bravado. Caroline tells Emmie she cannot talk that way to white people, who retorts that slavery is over! Mr. Stopnick’s Chanukah present to Noah is a $20 bill, intended as a life lesson about money and its value, but Noah inadvertently leaves the $20 bill in his pants and Caroline finds it, and according to their agreement she is keeping it! After the two exchange racial insults, Caroline returns the money and leaves and does not return to work for the rest of the week!
What will transpire between Caroline and the Gellman family now? Will they resolve their differences, and what of the mysterious desecration of the statue at the court house? How does it all fit together? With cast of singing kitchen appliances transposed against the brute economic forces that link the civil rights movement to the more recent Occupy protests. Ultimately, Caroline or Change is a great story as well as a story of American identity as defined by consumer power.
This Broadway revival of Caroline, or Change, premiered at the Chichester Festival Theatre in the U.K. in 2017, it is directed by Michael Longhurst with choreography by Ann Yee at Studio 54. Starring, leading lady and Olivier Award winner Sharon D. Clarke as Caroline and Samantha Williams will take on the role of Emmie. Also new to the cast are Kaden Amari Anderson as Jackie/Joe Alternate, Joy Hermalyn as Grandma Gellman, Kevin S. McAllister as Bus/Dryer, N’Kenge as The Moon, and Jaden Myles Waldman as the Noah Gellman alternate along with Tony nominee John Cariani as Stuart Gellman and Frozen’s Caissie Levy as Rose Stopnick Gellman. Caroline, or Change features a score by Jeanine Tesori and a book and lyrics by Tony Kushner with sets and costumes by Fly Davis, lighting by Jack Knowles, sound design by Paul Arditti, and music supervision by Nigel Lilley. Chris Fenwick serves as music director.
The Original Broadway production in 2004 won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress and a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music After the production moved to London in 2007 it won a Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical! The 2018 West End revival and the leading actress won a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 2019.
Caroline, or Change Review
“A singing washing machine? A crooning night bus? Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s 2003 musical set in Civil Rights-era Louisiana remains one of the most innovative modern examples of the form: a giddy marriage of fierce social observation and a gospel- and Motown-inflected score delivered by a cast that includes kitchen appliances and a rising moon. Longhurst’s up-close production releases all the pent-up emotion some critics have previously accused Kushner’s script of lacking. Clarke’s stony face barely conceals the tamped-down fury lingering beneath every pore: she’s a single parent made rigid by grief, self-disgust and her inability to hark the revolutionary call that has quickened the pulse of both her best friend, bent on self-improvement, and her teenage daughter Emmie, who rightfully sees the future as belonging to her. Longhurst underlines the brute economic forces that link the civil rights movement to the more recent Occupy protests – it’s telling that even the young Noah and Emmie acutely understand that American identity is defined by consumer power. But it’s his lavish execution of Tesori’s score that really captures the soul, from the pin-sharp Motown backing singers and Alex Gaumond’s keening klezmer clarinet to Ako Mitchell’s menacing spirituals and Clarke’s bitter, gut-wrenching stand out solo. Beautifully staged and impeccably performed, this is an exceptional show.”
– Claire Allfree, The Telegraph.