Caroline, or Change

A through-composed musical: Music - Jeanine Tesori: Lyrics - Tony Kushner; Book - Tony Kushner

Productions 2003 Off-Broadway
Eugene O'Niell Theatre, Broadway - May 2, 2004 to August 29, 2004 (136 performances)
National Theatre on the Lyttelton stage (in rep) October, 2006 - 4 January, 2007


The musical is set in Lake Charles, Louisiana during the American civil rights movement, just before, after and during the Kennedy Assassination.

Much of Caroline's work day passes in the Gellmans' laundry room, which adds some surprising singing characters to the cast – the washer, the drier, and the radio.

The title Caroline, Or Change has several meanings. The word 'change' is used in the sense of the change in Noah's pocket. Another sense is Caroline's tentative decision to quit her job. In addition, Noah goes through a social change after a family tragedy and Caroline changes by treating her family better and understanding Noah better. Finally, Rose changes from a Northerner to a Southerner. The nation changes as a result of JFK's death.


Caroline Thibodeaux is a black maid for a Southern Jewish family, the Gellmans. The Gellmans' young son, Noah, is enamored of Caroline, a woman resistant to the sweep of change she sees around her. Their friendship has intensified since his mother's death. Noah's new stepmother Rose, unable to give Caroline a raise, enlists Caroline's help in a plan to teach Noah a lesson about leaving change in his pants pocket (since Caroline does the family's laundry as part of her duties). Rose tells Noah and Caroline that Caroline should keep the money Noah leaves in his pockets. Caroline is loathe to take money from a child – but her own children desperately need food, clothing and shoes.

The punishment goes awry when a $20 bill goes missing, and Caroline's relationship with Noah suffers a painful breakdown, causing a rift between her family and the Gellmans. With the death of JFK and the inspirational speeches of Martin Luther King, the tide of change begins to affect Caroline's life, and she must come to terms with racial turmoil and the end of segregation. But the upbeat ending, involving Caroline's daughter Emmie, portends hope for Caroline's community.


Musical Numbers

  1. Feet Beneath the Sea
  2. Radio
  3. Laundry Quintet
  4. Noah Down the Stairs
  5. Cigarette
  6. Laundry Finish
  7. Dryer
  8. I Got Four Kids
  9. Caroline, There's Extra Food
  10. There Is No God, Noah
  11. Rose Stopnick Can Cook
  12. Long Distance
  13. Dotty and Caroline
  14. Moon Change
  15. Moon Trio
  16. Bus
  17. That Can't Be
  18. Noah and Rose
  1. Inside/Outside
  2. JFK
  3. Duets: No One Waitin'
  4. Duets: 'Night Mamma
  5. Duets: Gonna Pass Me a Law
  6. Duets: Noah Go to Sleep
  7. Noah Has a Problem
  8. Stuart and Noah
  9. Quarter in the Bleach Cup
  10. Caroline Takes My Money Home
  11. Roosevelt Petrucius Coleslaw
  12. Special Features [CD-ROM Track]
  13. Santa Comin' Caroline
  14. Little Reward
  15. 1943
  16. Mr. Gellman's Shirt
  17. Ooh Child
  18. Rose Recovers
  1. I Saw Three Ships
  2. Chanukah Party
  3. Dotty and Emmie
  4. I Don't Want My Child to Hear That
  5. Mr. Stopnick and Emmie
  6. Kitchen Fight
  7. Twenty Dollar Bill and Why
  8. I Hate the Bus
  9. Moon, Emmie and Stuart Trio
  10. Twenty Dollar Bill
  11. Caroline and Noah Fight
  12. Aftermath
  13. Sunday Morning
  14. Lot's Wife
  15. Salty Teardrops
  16. Why Does Our House Have a Basement?
  17. Underwater
  18. Epilogue