The Tony award winning musical “Caroline or Change” is soon to grace our own Taylor Stage here at UNCG. The musical’s book and lyrics are written by Tony Kushner and the score is written by Jeanine Tesori. Tony Kushner has won a Pulitzer Prize for the play “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes”, which tackled multiple controversies facing homosexuals. “Caroline or Change” is Kushner’s first attempt at a musical. Being known for his genuine and striking plays and screenplays, the musical doesn’t stray away from the striking subject-matter and themes found in his past working.
Taking place in 1963 in Lake Charles, Louisiana, this musical is set in the midst of social and political change in the country. The characters in the play are also facing their own personal changes.
Caroline has a close relationship with the son of the family she works with, particularly Noah Gellman, who is eight and has just lost his mother. Along with rearing her own children, Caroline has taken on caring for this boy. Caroline also faces the lack of change in her life; particularly the fact that as a black women in 1960s America she doesn’t have the ability to change her situation or her path. “Caroline or Change” combines spirituals, blues, motown, classical, jewish klezmer, and folk music. This wide range of music allows the musical to constantly engage in different aspects of the characters. In this play machines literally come to life. The washer, dryer, and radio are all played by cast members who are personifying these objects. These machines are a huge part of Caroline’s life since she is a maid and is interacting with them all the time. This musical centers around the idea that change can sometimes be inevitable but for others impossible.
“Caroline or Change” although set in a different time could not be more relevant than it is today. The musical is set in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, depicting the struggles of a black female protagonist. Still an issue today and this musical illuminates the issues of black oppression and the sacrifices the black community makes because of that.
The deep themes combined with energetic music creates a wonderful night of theatre. This musical will not be something you want to miss.
The playwright, Tony Kushner also grew up in Lake Charles Louisiana. He is openly homosexual and in the summer of 2008 he married his spouse Mark Harris. In 2013 he received a National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama for his work. Kushner wrote the screenplay for the film “Lincoln” that was released November 2012 in addition to the screenplay of his award-winning play “Angels in America”. Kushner is also known by James Fisher, a professor at UNCG and the director of UNCG’s production of “Caroline or Change.” James Fisher wrote a book about Tony Kushner entitled “Understanding Tony Kushner (Understanding Contemporary American Literature).” Fisher also interviewed Kushner at the Comparative Drama Conference in Florida this past summer. Having such a close relationship with Tony Kushner gives Fisher insight into where Kushner was coming from in writing the musical. Jeanine Tesori, who wrote the score for “Caroline or Change” has also written for musicals such as “Fun Home”, also a Tony winner, “Shrek the Musical”, and “Thoroughly Modern Millie”.
“Caroline or Change” runs from September 28 through October 9. Tickets can be bought at the box office located at the Brown Building between 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.