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Caroline, or Change

If you live in Toronto, I’d tell you to rush out and buy a ticket, but I think you’re too late – it’s sold out. But surely they will bring it back. Just the best local show I’ve seen in a very long time – Caroline, or Change, book and lyrics by Tony Kushner, music by Jeanine Tesori. I heard a lot about it when it first appeared on Broadway in 2004; it sounded highbrow and affected to me.

Wrong! It’s a gloriously heartfelt operatic play – sung and spoken – set in 1963, based on Kushner’s actual growing up in Louisiana. His surrogate character is a young boy whose mother has died; his wounded, distant father has remarried a nice woman who’s trying too hard, and his deepest connection is to their angry black maid, Caroline, who spends her days in the basement, doing laundry and listening to the radio. It’s about courage and defeat, family love and loss. It’s about humanity at the deepest possible level.
At the end, we see Caroline’s children – her 3 real children, who are about to embark on a brave new world of civil rights, and her other child, young Noah, isolated and alone in his bedroom. All of the characters – the white Jewish family, the black staff, even the washing machine, the radio and the moon, characters too – are richly written, sung and played. You feel that everyone involved in the writing and the production respects not only the characters they write and play, but the audience’s intelligence. It was a special treat for me to see my dear friend from Vancouver acting days, Nick Rice, playing the Jewish grandfather, leaping about the stage during the Hanukkah song.

You know those moments in the theatre, those rare moments when everything works and comes together – actors, direction, set, music, story – and magic is made? This production is full of them. It’s sheer delight and will surely come back, and when it does, please, don’t miss it.

It was winter today, at last, the first real day of winter in mid-February! Cold and snow. Skiiers and snow-plow operators and the local near-homeless man Bill who shovels for a living in the winter – they’re happy. Me, not so much. But then, it made a perfect day to go to the theatre and be warmed by the blazing heart of truth.

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2 Responses to “Caroline, or Change”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Beth,having just read your Feb 4th thru 11th blogs,I hope that you occasionally relax.
    When do you leave for Europe?Somehow I keep thinking that you told me you were coming down to DC -are you?
    Love to you and your (growing?) family,
    Cousin number whatever, gg

  2. beth says:

    Dear Cousin Number One: I am rushing about these days, but starting tomorrow will have a quiet week, just me and 19 "New Yorkers." I leave for Europe March 18 and return April 25; am in Paris from just after Easter till the end of the trip. But no Washington at the moment. New York for the book launch in June, probably. Be there or be square.
    love b.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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