A couple of weeks ago I was one of the lucky few who was allowed into the Caroline, or Change rehearsal rooms for a sneak peek at how the show is coming along, as it prepares for its West End transfer. (Check out my Instagram stories if you’d like to see and hear a little of what went on in that room in south west London. )
But why should you buy a ticket? Aside from the £5 Prologue tickets for 16-25 year olds, that is! With the first preview less than 24 hours away, I’ll give you a few things to consider as your finger is poised over the ‘buy’ button…
Caroline, or Change is set in Louisiana in 1963, which just so happens to be a key period in the civil rights movement time line in America. Recently Doctor Who brought Rosa Parks to our TV screens as the focus of an episode in the current series, so what could be better (in terms of the arts) than to watch a stage show dealing with some of the same issues? This subject matter remains incredibly topical, so it’s an ideal time to bring the show to a wider audience.
Speaking of Doctor Who… There’s the little matter of this being Sharon D. Clarke‘s return to the West End. Instantly embraced by Whovians only to have her snatched cruelly away, this is an opportunity to see her perform again as she reprises the role of Caroline Thibodeaux. Having been in that rehearsal space, I can attest to the power and emotion of her vocals which are sure to blow Playhouse audiences away.
And who created the show? Well, Jeanine Tesori provided the music, and Tony Kushner wrote the book & lyrics. If you’re wondering why those names seem painfully familiar, then let me help you out: Tesori’s incredible Fun Home recently had an acclaimed run at the Young Vic, and Kushner is responsible for the powerful Angels in America. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Caroline, or Change was first performed Off Broadway in 2003, with a London run at the National in 2006 – but last year saw its first UK performance in eleven years (directed by Michael Longhurst), when it played Chichester’s Minerva Theatre, before transferring to Hampstead Theatre a few months later. Even though it’s not a brand new musical, it’s always satisfying to see a show move from venue to venue, the production growing and developing as it goes – unfortunately I have yet to see it, so won’t be able to compare the presentation between venues, but it will be interesting to see the reaction it gets in its new home.
After spending summer and autumn as Calais’ Jungle (thanks to Miriam Buether’s absolutely epic set design), it will be rather strange to see the Playhouse Theatre reconfigured and back to being a ‘normal’ theatre again.