BWW Review: CAROLINE, OR CHANGE at Good Company Theatre
CAROLINE, OR CHANGE is not your typical Broadway musical. Director Teresa Sanderson helped me understand that when she explained at a preview that it was originally conceived as an opera. A chamber opera would be more accurate. And it helps to keep in mind the structure of American short stories so popular decades ago.
Master craftsman Tony Kushner, whose ANGELS IN AMERICA received every award imaginable, revisits his childhood as a motherless white boy in 1963. Caroline, a black housemaid, washes his family's clothes for $30 a week, and collects the loose change left in pockets. And she's largely unaware of civil rights movements gaining pace -- and causing change in American society. There are no uplifting power ballads, no self-empowerment of the "queen of keep-at-bay," as Jeanine Tesori's lyrics inform us.
At Ogden's Good Company Theatre, Sanderson and her superb cast understand the objectives of CAROLINE, OR CHANGE and reward the audience with a powerful production.
As Caroline, Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin is extraordinary. It is difficult to imagine a more perfect performance of the sung-through score. And she is riveting in the quiet moments of reflection, ranging between pain, rage and embittered resentment. There is anger and helplessness beneath the rigid dignity.
Daisy Allred also shines as Caroline's rebellious daughter Emmie, proving to be a very fine and confident singer and actor, who represents the next generation who will initiate the upheaval in societal change.
The score, with strains from Motown to Mozart, is challenging. Along with the vivid direction by Sanderson, a key component of the excellence of this CAROLINE, OR CHANGE is the work by musical director Anne Puzey. She empowers the performers to their best. Impressive work is seen in Kortney King-Lives (as the Washing Machine), Detorea Holy, Olivia Lusk and Sibley Snowden (in a Supremes-like trio as the Radio), and Tristan B. Johnson (as the Dryer), characters who console and challenge Caroline.
Thanks, Good Company, for taking on this complicated CAROLINE and staging it so beautifully.