Monday, March 14, 2016

Caroline, or Change

Once in a while I see a show that literally "blows-me-away".  That is the case of "Caroline, or Change" which is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.  Combining great music, phenomenal performances by extremely talented singers and actors with inspired direction and support staff makes this a memorable show discussing the social changes of the 1960s. 
"Caroline, or Change" is about a black-maid, Caroline portrayed by Echelle Childers.. She works for a Jewish family in Lake Charles, Louisiana during 1963.  This household has a father, a step-mother and an eight-year-old boy.  The father, Stuart Gellman works as a professional musician playing the clarinet. He is still grieving over the death of his wife who died of cancer even though he has remarried. 
The step-mother, Rose was a close friend of his wife.   She is frustrated by her new life.  Rose who previously lived in New York.  The Southern life is new to her. Added to that, she realizes that her husband is still grieving and withdrawn.   To further complicate life is Noah, the eight-year-old son.  Rose feels as if she is hated by him.  This eight-year-old is also grieving.  Life has changed since his mother's death and the only consistency in his young life is the family maid.
Caroline works in the newly in the basement in this house below sea level.  Her daily life consists of  a special relationship with the washing machine, dryer and sharing a cigarette with the 8-year-old Noah. 
Caroline has enough problems of her own being a divorced mother with four children of which the oldest is serving in Viet Nam.  Her daily challenges causes her to be harsh.  Even though, Noah is completely devoted to her, spending much of his time with her in the basement enjoying their friendship.  At one point in the play, Caroline is compared to being "the salt of the earth where nothing grows".   However, the salt can also make life a little tastier.
Life begins to change with change-pennies, nickels, dimes, and nickels.  Rose is frustrated with the change being found in the washing machine from pockets not being emptied. It appears that Noah does not empty money from his pockets. Caroline keeps a jar for the change but Rose decides that all the change can now go to Caroline.  After all, she only earns $30 a week and this way she can get a little raise, even if the family cannot afford it. 
The change causes change.
This show is unique, maybe ahead of its time.  The washing machine, moon, dryer, and bus are all great performers.  Yes, these inanimate objects are played by great multi-talented performers who are phenomenal singers.  
This type of musical opera combining elements of rock, soul, gospel and blues is an enthralling show that drew a full audience at the Howard Drew Theater at the Omaha Community Playhouse.
This cast and crew are outstanding.   The costumes, hair, acting, singing, props, scenery, music, accompaniment and stage management are top notch and could compete with any professionally performing company.   The show is fast-paced but time seems to stand still as each person tells their story. 
Personally I loved the Radio which was the voices with choreography of Rachel Busse, Dani Cleveland and Erin Florea.  These three Supreme-like performers were delightful with costumes resembling a classy radio.   Also, I loved the washing machine by Zhomontee Watson, bus and dryer by Nik Whitcomb and the moon, Kathy Banta.  All were phenomenal performers showing that they thoroughly enjoyed their roles.
Danny Denenberg was great as Noah Gellman as well Kundai Jacha and Wayne Hudson as Caroline's sons.   These children showed a stage maturity way beyond their years.  All the members of the Gellman family were outstanding.
Aguel Lual was phenomenal in the role of Caroline's daughter, Emmie.   Her singing "blew me away".  Wow!   The grandparents were all wonderful singers and actors.  Jerry Van Horn, Sara Planck, and Council Bluffs' resident, Joseph Dignoti.   
The lead role of Caroline portrayed by Echelle Childers also was a great voice by a very talented actress.
Local pianist, Ben Tweedt commanded the keyboards.
Caroline, or Change continues through Sunday, March 20th at the Omaha Community Playhouse located at 6915 Cass Street     On Wednesdays through Saturday, the curtain raises at 7:30p.m. and at 2 p.m. on Sunday with the cost of a ticket being $30 for adults and $20 for students on Wednesday and $40 for adults and $25 for students from Thursday through Sunday.   For tickets contact the bozx office at 402-553-4890, ext.147 or
How can a washer, dryer, bus, and unquestionably the moon be outstanding characters?  Go see the unique but phenomenal production of "Caroline, or Change".

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