Hit or Miss

Caroline, or Change

Jeff and I went to see Caroline, or Change last weekend and were both totally blown away by it. While the music may not be as memorable as Tesori’s score for Violet, it wasn’t the simple mishmash of pastiche that some critics alleged. And Kushner’s lyrics and libretto were devastating. Now I know what it’s like to see an important piece of theatre in its original staging.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the planned Broadway transfer, if just so I can get the chance to see it again (and when it does transfer, they can just go ahead and engrave Tonya Pinkins name on her Tony). But as much as I can’t wait for a cast recording of the show, I’m really hoping that HBO or PBS will telecast it (and eventually release it on DVD), because there’s so much rich imagery that goes hand in hand with the sonic tapestry of the score.

9 responses so far (Respond)

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i dunno, i have to say that i was particularly let down with Caroline or Change, particularly in relation to “The Story” playing at the neighboring theater at the Public. The show failed to affect me on an emotional level, and on a purely academic level, I thought Tony Kushner was particularly inept at writing lyrics… maybe that’s just me though. I say it pales in comparison to last season’s “Radiant Baby.”

jon collins | 9 Jan 2004
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Funny — I was moved to tears on more than one occasion. I guess the show resonated a lot for me because of my upbringing in the South. I may not be Jewish, but being Catholic down there can be a similar cultural minority experience (my Protestant schoolmates would say I was not a “Christian”).

Matt | 9 Jan 2004
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all of them matt? i think you’re being a bit dramatic. 😛

Jayson | 10 Jan 2004
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I’m curious what it was you found devastating in the libretto. I found maybe two parts truly shocking. The first was when Caroline’s daughter says “I know!” and keeps on dancing after Caroline tells her the president is dead. “It’s just another white guy who didn’t do anything for us” (i paraphrase). *That* was devastating, and true. The other shocking moment was the argument between Caroline’s daughter and the Grandfather at the Channukah dinner. (I was resolutely unshocked when Caroline told the son that all jews go to hell, I saw that coming miles away.)

Aside from that, I have to say the libretto was typical Kushner (the brilliant Angels in America aside, he has a lot of other work out there): inept, lacking technique, overblown and both melodramatic and underwhelming at the same time. The guy doesn’t know how to structure a song. There were maybe 5 times that I was ready to applaud a song, and then there were 3 minutes of singing left. That’s just shoddy technique. He doesn’t know what he’s doing, imho.

I was raised in the south too, albeit from a slightly different generation, and I was completely unmoved by the show. The only thing saving the endeavor was George C. Woolfe’s staging. The man can almost rescue anything.

jon collins | 10 Jan 2004
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I guess I was willing to cut Kushner a little slack, since I viewed the show more as a folk opera than a traditional musical. And I gave short shrift to Tesori’s contributions above — I thought the music was wonderful (and the orchestrations doubly so). So call me simple: I don’t like to pick on the parts, but rather let the sum total wash over me.

Matt | 10 Jan 2004
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it’s not simple at all. I wish I could be like that again… that’s the problem with working in the theater when you still go to the theater. Since I spend my whole life on the little details, it’s the little details I notice most, whether I want to or not. This is why most theater people don’t go to the theater very much, it’s too infuriating. I envy you!

jon collins | 10 Jan 2004
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Wow. Patronizing much? Just kidding 🙂

Matt | 10 Jan 2004
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It was a very entertaining evening — good story, excellent performances (especially Veanne Cox) good staging and a throught-provoking script.

Bob Cole | 12 Jan 2004
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Hey Matt–
Just stumbled on your blog.

I thought Caroline, Or Change, was the best new musical I’ve seen in years. Kushner’s lyrics were technically sloppy, agreed, but emotionally devastating. I cried a lot. The performances were uniformly superb. And Tesori’s music was the foundation on which everything rested.

Wendy

Wendy | 18 Jan 2004