Caroline, or Change

Started by Leighton, Sep 05, 2017, 01:17 PM

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Having missed this at Chichester I am so excited that it is transferring into the Hampstead next March.  One of my favourite shows!
Self indulgence is better than no indulgence!


Revisiting the original production (though, to reiterate from another thread, fifteen years is high time for a major New York revival, and I'd love to see the recent Chichester/Hampstead/West End production travel to our shores)...

Here's a clip from "Wrestling With Angels," a film about Tony Kushner that aired on PBS's documentary series POV in 2007; here, among various rehearsal and performance clips, we see Kushner and Tesori struggling with "Lot's Wife" as Caroline's first preview at the Public looms:

Having seen (bits of) that original production only in video clips from the 2004 B'way transfer, I was startled to see here just how small Riccardo Hern├índez's original Off-B'way set looks.  I trust it was intelligently expanded for Broadway; Ben Brantley's review mentioned that said expansion was subtly slicker and more elegant than the downtown original -- how so, he didn't specify -- but it doesn't sound overall as though the design was radically altered, beyond growing a bit to fill the O'Neill's larger stage.

But something about the sheer tightness of the Public space, as seen in this video -- the Gellman basement effectively appearing not only dismal, hot and humid, but truly, claustrophobically cramped as well -- makes me think that, if I had a time machine and the choice of seeing either the downtown or uptown version of that original production, I might actually choose the downtown.  I can't exactly explain why, beyond a hunch that the show might live just a shade more comfortably, and come across more intimately and powerfully, in the space for which it was originally designed.

In the absence of an actual time machine, I finally logged onto the NYPL's catalog -- as I've been meaning to do forever -- to see whether there's a full video recording of the show at the Lincoln Center Library; and if so, which version was recorded, B'way or Off-.  (Or maybe both, by some miracle? -- but my suspicion was that, if such a recording existed at all, it might more likely be the Broadway version).

Wrong again -- the Public version was taped for the archive, the B'way transfer apparently not:

So once my hiatus begins, at the end of this week, I just might have to find some "legit" ;) scholarly ;) or professional ;) need to research this production, and go down there and take a look.


Various links from the London revival, copied from the previous thread:

Rehearsal footage:
Designer's website:
"Lot's Wife":

And from the OBC, this YouTube playlist -- over an hour of highlights, albeit typical (2004) bootleg quality -- covers about half the show:



I want to come over :(
Self indulgence is better than no indulgence!



In honor of the performance I won't be seeing as soon as I'd hoped, I'm watching this more complete rendition of "Lot's Wife," from the 2019 Olivier Awards.

And in hopes that coronavirus madness will be brought under control in time for theatres to reopen later in the spring without too many shows closing altogether, I went ahead and got some new Caroline tickets for June.  I'll do the same for Company at some point, but at the moment their ticketing website is glitching.  Perhaps best to wait a bit anyway, for some assurance that the world is not in fact ending.


Wow, this thread has languished since the first full day of Broadway's long shutdown (also the day my TV job came to a screeching halt for six months), though I've thought about Caroline a lot, and probably mentioned it once or twice elsewhere on this board, since then.

Twenty months later, I finally saw it last night, and it was worth the wait; while I'm mildly ambivalent about a few of the choices in this production, it succeeded brilliantly at... well, at not disappointing me (no small achievement, under the unusual circumstances of its being a show I've passionately admired for seventeen years based solely on the original cast album).  Further, it succeeded in making me see -- literally see, as opposed to only hearing -- this material in ways I would never have thought of.  (And I have devoted some thought, over those seventeen years, to various ways Kushner's story might be told visually, though I've yet to find an opportunity to design a production of it myself -- which may be just as well, since, notwithstanding all that thinking, I have yet to hit on any brilliant design inspirations of my own).  I could nitpick some of Fly Davis's choices for this production, up to and including some of her and director Michael Longhurst's basic premises; but their approach remains intelligent, cohesive, visually compelling and sometimes breathtakingly apt.

I'll think some more about last night's performance before writing any further about the staging, but it really was an exciting evening, and I very much look forward to seeing it again at least once.  (I already have tickets for January 8, but I can easily imagine making one or two more visits before then if I'm able, either to share it with various other friends or just to savor it on my own, before its limited run ends on January 9).

My date last night was a composer/songwriter (and fellow NYU alum) who was wholly unfamiliar with the score but who noted with astonishment just how rangy it is -- not only in terms of the wide assortment of styles and genres Tesori deploys here, but specifically in terms of many of the vocal ranges.  On that basis as well as others, I imagine it's a tricky show to cast.  But I'm happy to say (and my friend agreed, despite missing some of the denser contrapuntal lyrics) that this production sounds gorgeous, across the board.  Not only are the voices flawless, but the acting-through-music -- the subtle phrasing and timing of Tesori's constantly-modulating tone and tempo -- is thrilling in its passion and precision.  (Also, it turns out that John Cariani, in addition to his other gifts as an actor, singer, playwright and now novelist, is also a fantastic clarinetist).

I've never heard whether or not Sondheim admired Caroline, either in its original production or in this revival (which he might have seen either in the UK or in previews here).  But I dearly hope so.  It's one of those works that's inconceivable in a world untouched by his influence, and one of the very few that I feel lives up to the Olympian standard he set -- including the fact that it actually sounds and feels nothing like his work; Kushner's and Tesori's voices are gloriously their own.


I think it is my favourite show - it has certainly been for the past few years. I think it is extraordinary.
Self indulgence is better than no indulgence!


I thought of you the other night, @Leighton, when Davis's set, after splitting apart for the arrival of the Bus in Act One, glided serenely back together again during Rose and Noah's bedtime coda near the end of the show.  As soon as the lights came up on stepmother and stepson on opposite sides of the stage, each isolated atop their separate halves of "upstairs" and speaking/singing across the gulf, I knew where this was heading visually, and held my breath for the scenic move to happen as gracefully and subtly as it surely needed to in order to work effectively.

And by "effectively" I mean "without actively damaging the scene": even the tiniest barely-noticeable bump or quiver as the pieces met, any minute hesitation on Caissie Levy's (Rose's) part (or if, conversely, she'd moved an instant too soon and then had to wait for the gap to close), would surely have destroyed the supreme delicacy of the moment.

No worries.  To my relief and delight, it went off flawlessly, almost subliminally, with the gentle slow-motion logic of a dream.

My only remaining qualm is that, if anyone else in that audience was experiencing the same brief suspense as me, they might have been distracted from the heartbreakingly lovely exchange it was meant to underscore: Rose's reassurance that Noah's mother (and her own best friend) Betty had been laid to rest aboveground "in a dry little house," "safe and sound," while the boy finally, tacitly allows his stepmom to tuck him in for the night.


Such beauty in that moment!
Self indulgence is better than no indulgence!




This makes me happy.  (I will have seen Caroline "only" twice by the time it closes tomorrow, as compared to Ms. Collins-Hughes's enviable soon-to-be-eight viewings, but I know just how she feels).

Ditto her admission that Company will likely be her next candidate for multiple-repeat viewing.

But I'm deeply sad that Caroline is closing.  The only silver lining is that they are releasing a new cast album next week. 


Enjoying yesterday's "exit interview" with John Cariani, who talks about the weirdness of performing in a pandemic.  (While I wish it had run much longer, Caroline at least bears the distinction of having completed its entire 13-week limited run without a single Covid cancellation).

He also talks about polishing up -- to a very high sheen indeed, I'd say -- his long-neglected clarinet skills over the long nineteen-month shutdown.

They should have taped the show for streaming, or PBS, or something; it deserved to be seen much more widely.  :'(


A selection of materials related to Caroline, or Change in the New York Public Library archive, from the curator of its theatre collection: