Read our ★★★★★ review of the Hampstead Theatre run below.Click here to book.
With a book written by Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner (Angels in America), and a score by Tony Award winner Jeanine Tesori, 2003 show Caroline or Change is already in the realms of ‘modern classic’. And director Michael Longhurst’s revival feels especially timely.
Sharon D Clarke is superb as Caroline, a maid working in the basement of a big Louisiana house. It’s 1963 and the civil rights movement has only reached the Bayou in whispers. But when JFK is killed, the younger generation are feeling impatient for change.
These larger issues are played out in the tiniest microcosm, through one black housemaid and her relationship with her the Gellner family, her Jewish employers.
Carole Stennett (Radio 3), T'Shan Williams (Radio 1), Sharon Rose (Radio 2) in Caroline, or Change at Hampstead Theatre. Photo by Marc Brenner
From the irrevocable shift of a family bereavement, to the impact of a few coins, it’s a bracing, innovative portrait of what ‘change’ really means – told entirely through song. Soul, gospel, folk, blues R’n’B and motown combine in smart, affecting and occasionally surreal show.
The household appliances of Caroline’s daily chores are anthropomorphised: Me’sha Bryan dons a perspex dress with mounds of bubbles to play the singing washing machine; Ako Mitchell is a smouldering dryer; and the radio is a trio of three glam soul singers reminiscent of The Supremes.
We watch as young Noah Gellner sneaks down into the basement to share a cigarette with the maid and we see his step-mother’s liberal guilt over the loose change left carelessly in pockets. Later we see how these forgotten coins highlight the racial divides and increasing frustration bubbling up in the deep south.
In the intimate focus on this one woman and her family, Kushner fleshes out issues and inequalities that still resonnate today. But he does so with a wit and eccentricity that makes this musical all the more memorable.
|What||Caroline, Or Change, Playhouse Theatre|
|Where||Playhouse Theatre, Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5DE | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Embankment (underground)|
20 Nov 18 – 09 Feb 19, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£10 - £37|
|Website||Click here to book now|