Caroline, Or Change is a through-composed Broadway musical with book and lyrics by Tony Kushner and score by Jeanine Tesori that combines negro spirituals, blues, Motown, classical music, and Jewish Klezmer and folk music.
The musical was first workshopped in May 1999 at New York's Public Theater. Director George C. Wolfe continued to workshop the musical at the Public Theater through 2003, when the show finally opened. After a successful run Off-Broadway, it transferred to the Eugene O'Neill Theatre and ran from May 2, 2004 to August 29, 2004 for a total of 136 performances, starring Tonya Pinkins in the title role. Despite its relatively short run, it was critically acclaimed and nominated for several 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 rep with Marianne Elliot's production of Therese Raquin to January 2007. The production did not transfer to the West End but did win the Olivier Award for Best New Musical. The production also starred Pinkins in the title role.
Caroline Thibodeaux is a black maid for a Southern Jewish family, the Gellmans. The Gellmans' young son, Noah, is enamored of Caroline, a woman resistant to the sweep of change she sees around her. Their friendship has intensified since his mother's death. Noah's new stepmother Rose, unable to give Caroline a raise, enlists Caroline's help in a plan to teach Noah a lesson about leaving change in his pants pocket (since Caroline does the family's laundry as part of her duties). Rose tells Noah and Caroline that Caroline should keep the money Noah leaves in his pockets. Caroline is loathe to take money from a child â€“ but her own children desperately need food, clothing and shoes.
The punishment goes awry when a $20 bill goes missing, and Caroline's relationship with Noah suffers a painful breakdown, causing a rift between her family and the Gellmans. With the death of JFK and the inspirational speeches of Martin Luther King, the tide of change begins to affect Caroline's life, and she must come to terms with racial turmoil and the end of segregation. But the upbeat ending, involving Caroline's daughter Emmie, portends hope for Caroline's community.
The opening night cast in London (2006) 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
Awards and honors
Caroline, or Change was nominated for a total of six Tonys in 2004, winning one:
The musical won the Olivier Award in 2007, for Best New Musical (at the Lyttelton Theatre)