Caroline, or Change @ Hampstead Theatre

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Tickets and more information: https://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/whats-on/2018/caroline-or-change/
Production photos from: https://www.facebook.com/pg/hampsteadtheatre/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1985720721457594

Finally, I’ve had a successful trip to the Hampstead Theatre. After seeing two shoddy plays over the last year, I was so excited to see that Caroline, or Change was just as incredible as everyone who has seen it has said. But I didn’t expect anything less seeing Tony Kushner wrote the play text and lyrics, particularly after I fell head over heels for his two parter epic Angels In America last year (seriously, it’s all I’ve been tweeting about). What I did notice between Angels and Caroline is that the overarching theme is how the main characters deal with and their attitude towards change. What I didn’t anticipate with Caroline was how much actual, physical change plays into the plot.

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The show centres around Caroline Thibodeaux, a black maid in the 1960s working for a rich Jewish family, the Gellmans. After Caroline keeps finding change in their laundry, her boss Rose Gellman makes a dare with her stepson Noah that any loose change Caroline finds in the laundry, she gets to keep. So throughout Caroline’s journey, we see how having slightly more money influences her decisions and self worth. The show also tackles the topic of motherhood and creates a parallel the relationship between Caroline & her daughter Emmie and Rose & Noah. Both mothers are trying to communicate with their kids in a time of a racing & political uprising and in a time of mourning, only enhanced by the assassination of John F Kennedy and the destruction of a Confederate soldier statue, both of which happen at the start of the show.

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Sharon D Clarke leads the cast as Caroline with powerhouse vocals that are out of this world and a subtle slow burn intensity. Caroline could easily be read as a mean, old woman. But Sharon never fails to incorporate the struggle and build up of all the hurt Caroline has experienced in her life. It’s so great to see her lead a company with such ease and she deserves to be front and centre more often. She leads a brilliant ensemble who all have superb vocals, particularly Abiona Omonua as Emmie, Aaron Gelkoff who played Noah at the performance I attended and Me’sha Bryan as the Washing Machine – who I must add, had the best costumes in the show.

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As I was reading my programme beforehand, I was so intrigued to see that Tony Kushner based the show on a woman who was a maid in his childhood home. There is one particular scene set at Hannukah where Emmie has an argument with Rose’s father about race, which only added an extra layer of context to the show.  Jeanine Tesori of Tony Award winning Fun Home fame has created a bouncy score which incorporates various genres from jazz to pop to Klezmer. Because the Hampstead theatre is so small, I did worry beforehand whether this would hinder the sound quality of the performance but I didn’t have to worry at all. That being said, I was right at the front so others may have a different experience.

This is truly a remarkable show and I can’t wait to visit when the West End transfer kicks off in November. For more information on the transfer please visit https://carolineorchange.co.uk

Until next time,

hayley-sprout-transparent

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