Broadway: CAROLINE, OR CHANGE (Roundabout at Studio 54)

Post image for Broadway: CAROLINE, OR CHANGE (Roundabout at Studio 54)

by Tony Frankel on October 27, 2021

in Theater-New York


We hear that that the only thing constant is change, yet we struggle against change, we fight against change, and some are even willing to succumb to the unyielding stress of determined apathy rather than change. We live in a world that must change the way it consumes and change the way it looks at money. Some of the world is so desperate to change that revolutions are begun against established regimes without a new government to put in its place. Change comes fast. Change comes slow. But change comes.

Arica Jackson, Sharon D Clarke

For Caroline, a divorced Louisiana maid who works in a hot basement, change is in the air. With three kids to feed in 1963, including a rebellious daughter, it is not this African-American maid’s hardscrabble existence that is eating away at her, but her defiant pride — a pride which threatens to consume her heart with a suffocating grip.

Nasia Thomas, Kevin S. McAllister, Harper Miles, Sharon D Clarke
Sharon D Clarke, Arica Jackson

I strongly, strongly urge you to see Roundabout Theatre’s thrilling production of Caroline, or Change, which opens tonight, October 27, at Studio 54 on Broadway for a limited engagement directed by Michael Longhurst. There, you will experience two of the most breathtaking and exhilarating moments ever seen in a Broadway musical, one which mourns the death of a President and one which mourns the death of a way of being, both stemming from the acceptance that change is upon us.

Tamika Lawrence, Sharon D Clarke
Caissie Levy, Sharon D Clarke

Set in Lake Charles, La. in 1963, the musical is about the charged relationship between an African-American maid and a Jewish boy at a time of turmoil in America. It takes place against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and the assassination of President Kennedy.

Adam Makké, John Cariani, Sharon D Clarke

A caveat for those who hear “Broadway Musical” (and this is one of America’s best new musicals in decades): Inspired by his own childhood, the perfectly rhymed lyrics and timeless, funny, heartbreaking book are by Tony Kushner (Angels in America). But don’t expect any breakout numbers in the sung-through score by Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home); in fact, rare are the moments when the audience is even given a chance to applaud. The melodies are character-driven and come and go to fit the scene, with strains of Motown, hard-driving gospel, and klezmer, a welcome change from songs being incongruously inserted where they don’t belong.

Sharon D Clarke, Samantha Williams
Adam Makké, Sharon D Clarke

Caroline certainly received praise enough from critics and audience alike, yet it originally had a short life on Broadway. The musical, originally directed by George C. Wolfe, began Off-Broadway at the Public Theater in 2003 and had a 20-week run on Broadway the following year. It fared better in London, where it won the Olivier Award for best new musical in 2007.

Nasia Thomas, Kevin S. McAllister, Sharon D Clarke, Arica Jackson, Harper Miles Sharon D Clarke

It’s difficult to encourage people to see a show where some of the characters are a washer, a dryer, a radio, a bus and the moon, but they are necessary as a Greek chorus which articulates the calamities in Caroline’s universe. As such, this is a musical which may not be produced often, but when it’s done, run to it. Roundabout is known for doing incredibly brave work anyway; their Cabaret was the best I’ve ever seen.

The Company of Roundabout Theatre Company's Caroline, or Change.
Harper Miles, Nasia Thomas, Sharon D Clarke, Arica Jackson, Caissie Levy 

Any devotee of the American musical theatre simply must see this production. Not only will you witness the transformation of musical theatre as we know it (just as Hamilton did), but this poetic journey so brilliantly captures the upheaval of the 1960s that you will return home inspired, reflective and — dare I say it? — changed.

Sharon D Clarke (Caroline Thibodeaux)
Caissie Levy (Rose Stopnick Gellman), Sharon D Clarke (Caroline Thibodeaux)

Sharon D Clarke returns to her Olivier Award-winning role as Caroline Thibodeaux, with Gabriel Amoroso (Noah Gellman), Alexander Bello (Jackie Thibodeaux), John Cariani (Stuart Gellman), Joy Hermalyn (Grandma Gellman), Arica Jackson (The Washing Machine), Tamika Lawrence (Dotty Moffett), Caissie Levy (Rose Stopnick Gellman), Adam Makké (Noah Gellman), Kevin S. McAllister (The Dryer, The Bus), Harper Miles (Radio 3), N’Kenge (The Moon), Nya (Radio 2), Richard Alexander Phillips (Alternate for Jackie Thibodeaux and Joe Thibodeaux), Jayden Theophile (Joe Thibodeaux), Nasia Thomas (Radio 1), Jaden Myles Waldman (Noah Gellman), Samantha Williams (Emmie Thibodeaux), Stuart Zagnit (Grandpa Gellman) and Chip Zien (Mr. Stopnick). Choreography by Ann Yee, Musical Supervision by Nigel Lilley and Musical Direction by Joseph Joubert.

Nya (Radio 2), Harper Miles (Radio 3), Nasia Thomas (Radio 1)

photos by Joan Marcus, 2021

Nasia Thomas (Radio 1), Harper Miles (Radio 3), Nya (Radio 2),
Arica Jackson (The Washing Machine), Sharon D Clarke (Caroline Thibodeaux)
The Company of Roundabout Theatre Company's Caroline, or Change.

Caroline, or Change
Roundabout Theatre Company
Studio 54 on Broadway (254 West 54th St)
ends on January 9, 2022
for tickets, call 212.719.1300 or visit Roundabout

Leave a Comment