Caroline, or Change

Caroline, or Change is a through-composed musical with book and lyrics by Tony Kushner and score by Jeanine Tesori that combines spirituals, blues, Motown, classical music, and Jewish klezmer and folk music.

Caroline, or Change
MusicJeanine Tesori
LyricsTony Kushner
BookTony Kushner
Productions2003 Off-Broadway
2004 Broadway
2006 London
2009 Guthrie Theater
2012 Berkeley Street Theatre
2017 Chichester Festival Theatre
2018 Hampstead Theatre
2018 West End
AwardsOlivier Award Best Musical

The show ran both Off-Broadway and on Broadway as well as in London.

Production history

The musical was first workshopped in May 1992 at New York's Off-Broadway Public Theater. Director George C. Wolfe continued to workshop the musical at the Public Theater, where it opened on November 30, 2003 and closed on February 1, 2004.[1][2]

It transferred to Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on May 2, 2004 and closed on August 29, 2004 after 136 performances and 22 previews. The musical starred Tonya Pinkins in the title role, Anika Noni Rose as Emmie Thibodeaux, Harrison Chad as Noah Gellman, Veanne Cox as Rose Stopnick Gellman and Chandra Wilson as Dotty Moffett (all both off-and on-Broadway). The choreographer was Hope Clarke; scenic design by Riccardo Hernandez; costume design by Paul Tazewell; and lighting design by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer. Despite its relatively short run, it was critically acclaimed[3] and nominated for six 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 repertory with Marianne Elliot's production of Thérèse Raquin to January 2007. The production did not transfer to the West End but did win the Olivier Award for Best New Musical. The opening night cast in London 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.[4]

A revival was produced at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester as part of Daniel Evans' inaugural season as artistic director of Chichester Festival Theatre, running from 6 May to 3 June 2017. The production was directed by Michael Longhurst, starred Sharon D. Clarke as Caroline and received critical acclaim earning five star reviews.[5] The production transferred with Clarke to the Hampstead Theatre, London from 12 March to 21 April 2018.[6] The production transferred to the West End at the Playhouse Theatre, where it began playing on 20 November 2018, and will run until 2 March 2019, once again starring Clarke.[7] In September 2019, it was announced that Clarke will reprise the role again, as this production will play on Broadway in 2020.

Regional theatre

Pinkins and Anika Noni Rose (Emmie Thibodeaux) reprised their roles in late 2004 at the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, California[8] and in January to February 2005 at the Curran Theatre, San Francisco, California.[9] The Chicago premiere at the Court Theatre in fall 2008 earned four Jeff awards[10] for director Charles Newell, Musical Director Doug Peck, star E. Faye Butler, and best production of a musical at a large scale theater.

Other regional productions have included Center Stage, Baltimore, Maryland, in December 2008 to January 2009 with E. Faye Butler;[11] the Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis, Minnesota, April to June 2009,[12][13] the Gallery Players, Brooklyn, N.Y., January to February 2010, The Human Race Theatre Company, Dayton, Ohio November 4–20, 2011, and Syracuse Stage (Syracuse, New York) February 1-February 26, 2012.[14] In 2017, the Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland staged it as part of a season with a focus on Tony Kushner plays. Its Colorado regional premiere took place April 5 to May 5, 2019, at the Aurora Fox Arts Center, directed by Kenny Moten and starring Mary Louise Lee as Caroline.[15]

A 2012 production by Acting Up Stage Company in Toronto, Ontario garnered Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding Production of a Musical, Sterling Jarvis (principal actor), Arlene Duncan (pricipal actress) and Outstanding Musical Direction (Reza Jacobs).[16] A new production by Acting Up Stage Company, now called The Musical Stage Company, in Toronto, Ontario will play January 31 to February 16, 2020 starring Jully Black as Caroline and Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman as The Moon at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres. [17]


Act One

On a hot day in 1963 in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Caroline, a black maid who works for the Gellman family for $30 a week, launders clothes in the basement. ("Scene 1 Washer/Dryer") The Gellmans' 8-year-old son Noah, whose mother has recently died of cancer, is attracted to Caroline, a no-nonsense single parent. Caroline allows Noah to light her one cigarette each day, a secret they can share. ("Noah Down the Stairs") Caroline puts the laundry in the dryer and sings about her four kids and cleaning houses for 22 years. ("Laundry Finish/The Dryer")

Noah's new stepmother Rose cannot give Caroline a raise, but tells her to take some extra food home to her kids; ("Caroline, There's Extra Food") Caroline declines. Noah's father Stuart, despondent since his wife's death, tells Noah he has lost his faith. ("There is No God, Noah") Noah confesses that he hates Rose. ("Rose Stopnick Can Cook") Rose confesses to her father, Mr. Stopnick, that she is unhappy as well. ("Long Distance")

After work, Caroline argues with her friend Dotty about each other's lifestyles. ("Dotty and Caroline") The moon rises as they wait for a bus. ("Moon Change") They discuss the recent mysterious destruction of a statue of a Confederate soldier at the courthouse. ("Moon Trio") The bus arrives with devastating news: President Kennedy has been assassinated. ("The Bus"/The President is Dead")

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 and Rose") The Gellman family reminisces about the good President Kennedy did for the Jews—and Dotty reminisces about the good he intended to do for African Americans. (Scene Four - Finale") On the front porch of her house, Caroline tells her teenage daughter Emmie that the president is dead. Emmie says she doesn't care, because JFK never fulfilled his promises to the black community. ("Scene Five") Noah, awake in his bedroom, asks Caroline what laws she would pass if she were president. ("Gonna Pass Me a Law")

Rose tells Caroline she is allowed to keep any money she finds in Noah's pants, to supplement her salary and teach Noah a lesson. ("Noah Has a Problem") Noah, aware of her situation, purposefully leaves his candy and comic book money in his pockets, as well as seventy-five cents. ("The Bleach Cup") Caroline feels bad about keeping it, but does so, out of necessity. ("Roosevelt Petrucius Coleslaw")

Act Two

Caroline, ironing clothes in the basement, remembers her ex-husband, who was kind and thoughtful until he became abusive. ("Ironing") Rose tells Caroline to keep any money Stuart leaves in his clothes as well, ("Mr. Gellman's Shirt"/"Ooh Child"), then asks if she, Dotty, and Emmie will work at her upcoming Chanukah party. ("Rose Recovers")("Dryer Gloria") Caroline's kids encourage her to keep taking the laundry money, because they need it. ("I Saw Three Ships")

At the Chanukah party, Noah educates Emmie about the holiday. ("The Chanukah Party") Rose shoos Noah out of the kitchen, ("Noah, Out! It's Very Rude") and Dotty tells Emmie about the courthouse statue. ("Dotty and Emmie") When Mr. Stopnick belittles Martin Luther King Jr.'s nonviolent civil disobedience, Emmie tells him white people have no right to be critical. ("Mr. Stopnick and Emmie") Mr. Stopnick is impressed with Emmie's bravado, but Caroline tells her she cannot talk that way to white people; Emmie retorts that slavery is over. ("Kitchen Fight") Mr. Stopnick's Chanukah present to Noah is a $20 bill, intended as a life lesson about money and its value. ("A Twenty Dollar Bill and Why") At the bus stop, Emmie says she wants a car and a big house when she grows up. ("I Hate the Bus") Back at the house, Stuart laments that he can give neither Rose nor Noah what they need. ("Moon, Emmie, Stuart Trio")

Noah inadvertently leaves the $20 bill in his pants; after school he rushes to the basement, but Caroline has found it and says she is keeping it, per their agreement. ("The Twenty Dollar Bill"/"The Clock") Noah and Caroline exchange racial insults, then Caroline returns the money and leaves. ("Caroline and Noah Fight") After three days, Caroline has not returned to work. ("Aftermath") That Sunday on her way to church, Caroline realizes that the laundry money had only fostered greed and hatefulness; she asks God to free her from earthly desires. ("Lot's Wife") At church, Caroline gives Emmie a fierce hug. ("How Long Has This Been Going On?")

Noah finally lets Rose tuck him into bed and kiss him goodnight. Caroline returns to work and assures Noah that they'll be friends again. ("Why Does Our House Have a Basement?"/"Underwater") Emmie reveals that she helped take down the Confederate soldier statue, and proudly sings that she is the daughter of a maid, but she will continue to work for a greater cause, and her children will have a brighter future. ("Emmie's Dream/Epilogue")

Musical numbers


  • Caroline Thibodeaux: 39-year-old African-American maid for the Gellmans, a middle-class Jewish family
  • Noah Gellman: The Gellmans' 8-year-old curious, sympathetic, and neurotic son
  • Rose Stopnick Gellman: Noah's concerned new stepmother from New York City, marries Stuart after his first wife's death
  • Stuart Gellman: Professional clarinet player and Noah's father, mourning the loss of his wife
  • Emmie Thibodeaux: Caroline's 16-year-old free-spirited daughter, supporter of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement
  • Dotty Moffett: Friend of Caroline and fellow maid, takes night classes at the University
  • The Washing Machine: Domestic appliance portrayed by an actor, cleans clothes for the Gellmans and pushes Caroline to move forward in life
  • The Dryer: Domestic appliance portrayed by an actor, torments Caroline throughout the show
  • The Radio: Domestic appliance portrayed by a Supremes-like trio, serves as a Greek Chorus for the show
  • The Moon: Portrayed by an actor, is a calming and healing presence throughout the show
  • The Bus: Portrayed by an actor, is the primary source of transportation for the African-American characters in the show
  • Mr. Stopnick: Rose's father, a Jewish man with a socialist ideology from New York City
  • Grandpa and Grandma Gellman: Noah's grandparents, Stuart's parents
  • Jackie Thibodeaux: Caroline's young son
  • Joe Thibodeaux: Caroline's young son

Notable casts

Character Off-Broadway
Chichester Festival Theatre
Hampstead Theatre
West End
Broadway Revival
Caroline Thibodeaux Tonya Pinkins Sharon D. Clarke
Noah Gellman Harrison Chad Greg Bernstein
Perry Millward
Jonny Weldon
Charlie Gallacher
Daniel Luniku
Charlie Gallacher
Aaron Gelkoff
Isaac Forward
Aaron Gelkoff
Jack Meridith
Jonah Mussolino
Rose Stopnick Gellman Veanne Cox Anna Francolini Lauren Ward Caissie Levy
Stuart Gellman David Costabile Richard Henders Alex Gaumond Alastair Brookshaw John Cariani
Emmie Thibodeaux Anika Noni Rose Pippa Bennett-Warner Abiona Omonua TBA
Dotty Moffett Chandra Wilson Nora Cole Nicola Hughes Naana Agyei-Ampadu Tamika Lawrence
The Washing Machine Capathia Jenkins Malinda Paris Me’sha Bryan Arica Jackson
The Dryer / The Bus Chuck Cooper Clive Rowe Ako Mitchell TBA
The Radio Tracy Nicole Chapman
Marva Hicks
Ramona Keller
Ramona Keller
Joy Malcolm
Nataylia Roni
Keisha Amponsa Banson
Gloria Ontiri
Jennifer Saayeng
T’Shan Williams
Sharon Rose
Carole Stennentt
Keisha Amponsa Banson
Dujonna Gift-Simms
Tanisha Spring
Harper Miles
Nasia Thomas
The Moon Adriane Lenox Aisha de Haas Angela M Caesar TBA
Mr. Stopnick Larry Keith Hilton McRae Teddy Kempner Chip Zien
Grandpa Gellman Reathel Bean Ian Lavender Vincent Pirillo Stuart Zagnit
Grandma Gellman Alice Playten Valda Aviks Beverley Klein Sue Kelvin TBA
Jackie Thibodeaux Kevin Ricardo Tate Leon G. Thomas III Ronald Chabvuka
Louis Ekoku
Mitchell Zhanghaza
James Gava
Zephan Amish
Kenya Sandy
Mickell Stewart-Grimes
Mark Mwangi
Kenya Sandy
Jeremiah Waysome
Chinua Payne
Joe Thibodeaux Marcus Carl Franklin Kazim Benson
Kuan Frye
Jamal Hope
Josiah Choto
T-ni Taiwao
Josiah Choto
David Dube
Josiah Choto
David Dube
Raphael Higgins-Hume
Alexander Bello

Awards and nominations

Original Broadway production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2004 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Book of a Musical Tony Kushner Nominated
Best Original Score Jeanine Tesori and Tony Kushner Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Tonya Pinkins Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Anika Noni Rose Won
Best Direction of a Musical George C. Wolfe Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Nominated
Outstanding Book of a Musical Tony Kushner Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Tonya Pinkins Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Anika Noni Rose Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical George C. Wolfe Nominated
Outstanding Music Jeanine Tesori Won

Original London production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2007 Laurence Olivier Awards Best New Musical Won
Best Actress in a Musical Tonya Pinkins Nominated
Best Supporting Performance in a Musical Anna Francolini Nominated

2018 West End revival

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2019 Laurence Olivier Awards[18] Best Musical Revival Nominated
Best Actress in a Musical Sharon D. Clarke Won
Best Costume Design Fly David Nominated


  1. Jones, Kenneth."Before Broadway, Caroline, or Change Ends Public Theater Run Feb. 1; Final Weekend Sold Out" Archived October 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, February 1, 2004
  2. Brantley, Ben."Theater Review; Outsiders Bond in a South of Roiling Change" The New York Times, December 1, 2003
  3. Sommer, Elyse."A CurtainUp Review: 'Caroline, or Change' ", May 3, 2004
  4. Billington, Michael."Review:'Caroline, or Change' " The Guardian, October 20, 2006
  5. "Exceptional revival of a powerful and innovative drama - Caroline, Or Change review" 12 May 2017
  6. Vine, Hannah. First Look at Sharon D. Clarke in 'Caroline, or Change' at London’s Hampstead Theatre" Playbill, March 19, 2018
  7. "Caroline, Or Change extends in the West End, free tickets available for people called Caroline | WhatsOnStage". Retrieved 2019-01-23.
  8. Summary of article from Los Angeles Sentinel, December 15, 2004
  9. Hernandez, Ernio; Jones, Kenneth. "Kushner and Tesori's 'Caroline, or Change' with Pinkins Plays in San Francisco" playbill, January 14, 2005
  10. "Jeff Awards". Jeff Awards. Archived from the original on 2012-02-28. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  11. CenterStage listing Archived December 19, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  12. Guthrie listing Archived 2009-05-15 at the Wayback Machine
  13. Hetrick, Adam. "Guthrie Announces 2008-09 Season of "Firsts," Including Kushner Premiere and Little House Musical" playbill, March 26, 2008
  14. "Greta Oglesby Leads Kushner & TesoriÂ's 'Caroline, or Change' at Syracuse Stage", January 31, 2012
  15. "Aurora Fox ushers in daring new era with ‘Caroline, Or Change’"
  16. Ouzounian, Richard. " 'Crash'; 'Caroline, or Change' and 'Topdog/Underdog' win most Dora Awards" The Star, June 25, 2012
  17. "New Production of 'Caroline or Change'" The Star, May 22, 2019
  18. Longman, Will (2019-03-05). "Olivier Awards 2019: Full list of nominations". London Theatre Guide. Retrieved 2019-03-05.
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