Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Caroline, or Change. The book and lyrics were by Tony Kushner and the music was by Jeanine Tesori. It was directed by Lili-Anne Brown and the music direction was by Andra Velis Simon. It is about Caroline (Rashada Dawan) who is a maid for a Jewish family in the 60s in Louisiana. She is a single mother to three kids, Emmie (Bre Jacobs), Jackie (Princess Isis Z. Lang), and Joe (Lyric K. Sims). She is not proud of her work, but she passes the time doing laundry by listening to the radio and the singers on the radio are personified and become her chorus (Roberta Burke, De'Jah Jervai, and Emma Sipora Tyler). So do the Washer (Tyler Symone) and the Dryer (Micheal Lovette). Noah (Alejandro Medina) is the son of her employers, Rose and Stuart Gellman (Blair Robertson and Jonathan Schwart) and is obsessed with Caroline and thinks that she seems more powerful than his father. She doesn't feel powerful herself. She is scared of her daughter getting hurt in the fight for civil rights and she thinks her friend Dotty (Nicole Michelle Haskins) is being selfish and living her life too boldly. Caroline gets an extra pay boost when she is allowed to take the money that Noah leaves in his pockets, but she is conflicted about taking money from a kid. She is conflicted about change in two senses. This musical is about stepping out of your comfort zone, identity, and family. I thought that this was a really really good show. There were excellent performances and I thought it had an especially intriguing premise.
One of my favorite songs was "The Bus." The Bus (Lovette) had such great control over his voice and I loved listening to him as both the Dryer and the Bus. His entrance was so abrupt; you just hear this very low note come from offstage. It almost sounded like he was crying throughout the song, which is appropriate because he has just found out JFK has died. That is also why the abruptness is appropriate. I also really liked "Laundry Finish." I loved the washer and the dryer and I thought it was interesting how they were personified. I loved how Caroline interacted with them. She seemed kind of frustrated with them in a way but she was also thankful for them. I thought the high notes were really well sung and I liked the humor of the song, like when the Washer seemed so proud of her work and the Dryer used innuendo with Caroline. I also enjoyed "Roosevelt Petrucius Coleslaw." It was like a nursery rhyme that Caroline's kids and Noah sang about a very ugly boy and how sad his mother was when he died. It had some darker undertones to it, like most nursery rhymes, but it showed the sisters' relationship with each other very well. And Noah wants to be a part of their family, so in his head he is playing games with them and singing. It shows you how lost he feels and how he thinks he would be accepted and happy if he lived with Caroline.
I think Caroline was a very interesting character and Dawan did an amazing job with the role. You could see the love she had for the people around her, but also how she wasn't always great at showing it. She would try her best to make enough money to give her kids what they wanted and needed, but she was also kind of harsh with them even when they were just trying to help. She also had a very strong connection with Noah but got very easily angry at him because she didn't want Noah or herself to get in trouble. Noah sees her as "the president" and thinks very highly of her because she is so stoic but determined and caring--which is a classic image of a ruler. Rose's opinion of Caroline is very complex. It is hard to tell whether she comes up with the plan of Caroline keeping Noah's change because she wants to teach Noah a lesson or to break up the relationship between Caroline and Noah so she herself can be the more prominent motherly figure in his life. It also might be a bit of guilt because she doesn't pay her enough. Caroline doesn't seem to like Rose very much, and I think that is because she, like Noah, misses his mother. It would be interesting to see Caroline with Noah's mother and how her relationship differed with her and Rose.
People who would like this show are people who like dark nursery rhymes, President Caroline, and thoughtful consideration of conflicts still happening today. I think this is a really really great show. All the performers were great. I really like the musical and what it has to say about change, society, and family. I think that people should definitely go see this beautiful show. I loved it.
Photos: Marisa KM