PICKSINSIX Review: CAROLINE, OR CHANGE
“CAROLINE” – A STUNNING WORK OF ART!
Fearless, central performance… Change for Caroline Thibodeaux isn’t easy, but change is coming. The wage she earns for the long hours doing laundry barely allows her to put food on the table for her three kids at home. She spends her days working underground between the washer, the dryer and the radio, and her nights in the shadow of the moon, dreaming of a better place. A fearless, central performance by Rashada Dawan makes Firebrand Theatre’s pulsating new production of the Tony Kushner/Jeanine Tesori musical “Caroline, or Change” a stunning work of art!
Exciting new partnership… Kushner’s semi-biographical masterpiece, staged in association with TimeLine Theatre Company, is directed by Lili-Anne Brown with music direction by Andra Velis Simon. Emerging through a multitude of intricate rhythms and diverse musical styles, it is the story of two divergent families – one African-American, one Jewish – in the midst of the early ‘60s civil rights movement. Laying bare the raw and oppressive attitudes of the day, “Caroline, or Change” is an exquisite accomplishment for the exciting new partnership between Firebrand and TimeLine.
Family friction… In 1963 Lake Charles, Louisiana, Noah (Alejandro Medina) is coping with the recent passing of his mother. Noah’s father, Stuart Gellman (Jonathan Schwart) has married Rose (Blair Robertson), his mom’s best friend, who is now trying to forge a bond with Noah. Noah despises his stepmother and turns to Caroline, who has been his anchor through the long illness. Caroline understands the friction Rose’s presence has brought to the family and resists efforts to partner in the boy’s discipline, particularly when it comes to Rose’s insistence that he be held accountable for his carelessness with money. Noah adores Caroline and imagines her as the perfect mother, citizen, even President.
Breakout role… Dawan’s Caroline soars as she struggles mightily to cope with the mounting pressure of her relationship with Rose, a smart turn for Robertson, and her blistering confrontation with Noah. Caroline’s rebellious daughter Emmie, a breakout role for Bre Jacobs, adds to the mounting drama while her friend, Dotty, the perfect Nicole Michelle Haskins, tries to keep moving forward. Medina’s Noah is simply terrific as are the touching performances of Princess Isis Z. Lang (Jackie) and Lyric K. Sims (Joe), the younger Thibodeaux daughters. The fantasy elements of the sung-through piece showcase the strong vocals of Tyler Symone (Moon/Washer), Roberta Burke(Radio 3), De’Jah Jerval (Radio 1) and Emma Sipora Tyler (Radio 2) and Michael Lovette (Bus/Dryer).
Brilliant chamber orchestra… Over twenty performers and dozens of creative/administrative professionals contribute to this impressive production. The brilliant chamber orchestra is conducted by Andra Velis Simon. Lauren Nichols contrasting set of rooms above the basement works well with audience on two sides in the Den Theater’s Heath Stage. Lighting by Cat Wilson dramatically highlights the dazzling Kotryna Hilko costumes.
Immerse yourself… Allow a bit of extra time before the show and at intermission to immerse yourself in the dramaturgy exhibit on display. TimeLine has also created an excellent app to examine the events and background that helps to enhancing overall impact and educational value.
NOTE: Our engaging August 2018 CONVERSATION
with Lili-Anne Brown - BIG CONCEPTS. NEW PARTNERSHIPS
is available on Apple Podcasts, Libsyn and Stitcher.
with TIMELINE THEATRE
CAROLINE, OR CHANGE
through October 28, 2018
The Den Theatre
1331 N Milwaukee