Caroline, or Change still dazzles at the Guthrie


Caroline, or Change is still playing at the Guthrie, and if you haven't seen it yet -- GO! It's absolutely beautiful.

Set to the backdrop of the civil rights movement, Kennedy's assassination, and the Vietnam War, the musical takes place in Louisiana in 1963. Caroline Thibodeaux, a divorced African American maid who works for a Jewish family, toils away washing laundry in the infernal heat of the underground basement. Noah Gellman, an eight-year-old boy whose mother has recently died, keeps leaving change in his pockets, and to teach him a lesson, the boy's stepmother Rose tells Caroline she can keep the money.

Caroline doesn't crack a smile the entire show, but bits of her former bright and buoyant self still peek through, making her tragedy all the more poignant. Though change is in the air, Caroline is unable to crawl out from under her emotional despair and find new life. All around her, people are energized by what is to come. But for Caroline, change is coming too late.

The musical is powerful not only in its story and lyrics, but also in its music -- a combination that guarantees your eyes won't stay dry for long. Tony Kushner 's lyrics and Jeanine Tesori's music are performed incredibly well by a stand-out cast. Greta Oglesby, as Caroline Thibodeaux, brings her deep, rich voice to the role, as well as her ability to convey emotions with her body -- even the very incline of her head spells tragedy. Nikki Renee Daniels brings her resonant voice to the role of Caroline's hope-filled daughter Emmie. Daniels is the perfect foil to Oglesby; her wide-eyed portrayal of Emmie is both a promise of the future, and a painful reminder of what Caroline could have been.

Also worthy of note is T. Mychael Rambo, as the dryer and the bus, and Julie Reiber, as the stepmother. Rambo's deep voice fills the stage; Reiber's portrayal of the painfully eager stepmother is perfect, right down to the nervous fluttering of her hands.

Caroline, or Change plays at the Guthrie through June 21. If you see one musical this year, this should be it.