It all comes out in the wash
Musical about Southern Jewish family and maid during Civil Rights era at Loft Theatre
By Jennie Szink, Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer
Imagine being an 8-year-old who receives a large sum of money for Chanukah, only to lose it to your housekeeper — almost a second mother — because your stepmother is teaching you a lesson.
That’s just one conflict that introduces theatregoers to the Gellman family and their
housekeeper Caroline Thibodeaux in the Human Race Theatre Company’s production of Caroline, Or Change, on stage at The Loft Theatre Nov. 3-20.
Director Scott Stoney said he was behind bringing Caroline, Or Change to the area after he saw it on Broadway in 2004. Set in Louisiana in 1963, Caroline’s book and lyrics were written by Tony Kushner, loosely based on his life as a young child in Louisiana. The score is by Jeanine Tesori, who wrote the music for Shrek The Musical.
“The story circles around Caroline and her position in a Jewish household and Caroline’s role in her family,” Stoney said of the lead character, who spends her days doing the Gellman’s laundry.
“It also deals with a father who lost his wife and remarried a New Yorker. His child is dealing with a lot of change, and I think that is the heart of the show. It’s about how we as individuals deal with change.”
The curtain opens with the news of the assassination of JFK. Just as the outside world seems to turn into chaos, so does the Gellman household.
Chanukah is approaching and two families — one from the North and one from the South — converge for the first time.
“Families are not clean,” Stoney said. “When two people come together in marriage, it brings two families together and they are never going to be the same.”
In addition to the Gellmans’ attempt at smoothing out their family life, Caroline has many worries of her own. She’s divorced at a time when it is still taboo; her son is fighting in Vietnam and her teenage daughter thinks things should go a different way.
“It speaks directly to parents and their children because I don’t know of any that don’t have fights,” Stoney said.
While the Gellman family and Caroline sort out their struggles, some of the appliances on the set come to life as characters. When Stoney was casting for the play he thought of Tanesha Gary, who had played the role of The Radio on Broadway. Stoney ultimately cast her as Caroline.
“I am thrilled to have her pedigree and experience in our show,” he said.
Stoney has high hopes for the production because of its variety of musical styles (spirituals, blues, Motown, klezmer), Kushner’s dramatic and poignant writing, and the musical’s focus on different types of people.
“Jewish families will definitely see themselves in this play, from the seating arrangements at the holiday meals to the Chanukah traditions,” Stoney said. “This musical speaks to so many different races and religious groups that we just couldn’t pass it up.”
The Human Race Theatre Company’s production of the musical Caroline, Or Change runs Nov. 3-20 at The Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main St. Tickets are available at 228-3630 and ticketcenterstage.com. The DJCC will host a performance on Thursday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. as part of its Cultural Arts and Book Festival. For tickets to the Nov. 17 performance (with a group rate of $29 per ticket), contact Betty Gould at email@example.com or 461-8295 and use the promotional code JFGD.