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Caroline, or Change

"To work on it has been a gift."

Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori's Caroline, or Change challenges us to find hope and a voice in dark times, writes Mitchell Butel.

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Category: Musical
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At the Crossroads: Caroline, or Change

Date: 26 Aug 2019

“Change come fast and change come slow but change come.”

So sings the Moon one night to Caroline Thibodeaux in this extraordinary, one-of-a-kind gospel/rhythm and blues/folk music theatre gem from Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori.

The central question of the show is how do we live a life of grace and hope when sorrow and fear fills our hearts and the roadblocks in front of us seem insurmountable.

Though the show, based on Tony Kushner’s early life, raises the question in the specific context of two families in Louisiana in the early 1960s – one African American, one Jewish – it’s a question we’ve all had to ask at some point.

And the show offers some suggestions on how to answer it. And it does it with great wit, humanity and invention. To work on it has been a gift. Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori are two of the greatest theatre minds in the world.

Performing in Kushner’s Angels in America for Belvoir and directing Tesori’s Violet for Blue Saint Productions have been two of the greatest and most rewarding experiences of my career. To now work on a project that combines their incredible artistry, intelligence and soul is a dream come true.

Caroline, or Change is about crossroads – choosing new paths, finding our voice and finding hope in the darkest of places. And it’s about unlikely friendships, in this case, a young 10-year-old Jewish boy, Noah, and an African-American maid, Caroline, who works in his family’s home in Louisiana in 1963. While the country is at a crossroads in terms of the civil rights movement, both Noah and Caroline face similar precipices.

This tale is tough, joyous, magical, surreal and constantly compelling. And full of the best gospel, blues and soaring diva ballads you’re ever likely to hear in a theatre.

Elenoa Rokobaro stopped the show nightly in my production of Violet with her voice of gold and I’m delighted to be working with her again as she scales new dramatic and musical heights in this powerhouse leading role.

Backed by a phenomenal cast, the musical director of Violet Lucy Bermingham, Violet’s designer Simon Greer and lit by Alexander Berlage and choreographed by Yvette Lee, both direct from the recent hit production of American Psycho, it is a dynamite crew.

I can’t wait to help them bring Louisiana to Potts Point.

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