PHOTO CALL: Caroline, or Change at California's TheatreWorks

By Matthew Blank
April 15, 2008

Palo Alto, CA's TheatreWorks has ventured "sixteen soggy feet below the Gulf of Mexico" in 1963 Louisiana with Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori's award-winning Broadway musical Caroline, or Change.

Directed by founding artistic director Robert Kelley, the production concludes TheatreWorks' 38th season. Performances began April 2 with an official opening April 5.

Nominated for six Tony Awards, the musical set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement tells the story of Caroline, "the African-American maid of a Southern Jewish couple, and a confidant to their young son, Noah. When Caroline is enlisted in a plan to teach Noah a lesson about leaving change in his pockets, the tide of social change begins to affect her life first-hand."

Bay Area favorite C. Kelly Wright (A Little Princess, Crowns, Into the Woods, Dessa Rose, Memphis) stars in the title role of the "implacable, indestructible" maid Caroline, a woman "caught 'tween the Devil and the muddy brown sea."

Julian Hornik (TheatreWorks' Merrily We Roll Along) portrays young Noah, and Valisia Lekae (Broadway casts of 110 in the Shade and The Threepenny Opera) plays Caroline's daughter Emmie, the role that won Anika Noni Rose a Tony in 2004.

James Monroe Iglehart (Spelling Bee on Broadway) appears as both the demonic basement dryer and the "drifting, driverless orphaned ship of State," as represented by the Bus.

Also featured in the cast are Anise Ritchie as the Moon, Eileen Tepper (national tours of Fiddler on the Roof and Les Miserables) as Rose, Allison Blackwell as Dotty, Ryan Drummond (television's "Veronica Mars") as Stuart, Randy Nazarian as Mr. Stopnick, Jesse Caldwell as Grandpa Gellman and Roberta Morris as Grandma Gellman. Dawn Troupe, Adrienne Muller and Marsha Lawson collectively play the role of Caroline's radio.

TheatreWorks opens its 39th season June 18 with the West Coast Premiere of Stephen Schwartz's musical "album" Snapshots.

Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts is located at 500 Castro Street (at Mercy) in Mountain View, CA. For tickets, priced $25-$61, call (650) 903-6000 or visit theatreworks.org.

Below is a look at the production, which runs through April 27:

Caroline (C. Kelly Wright) dances to the Radio (back from left: Marsha Lawson, Adrienne Muller, Dawn L. Troupe) along with the Washer (Allison Blackwell) and Dryer (James Monroe Iglehart).


"The earth has bled..."
The Bus (James Monroe Iglehart) delivers the news of JFK's death to Dotty (Allison Blackwell) and Caroline (C. Kelly Wright).


Emmie (Valisia LaKae) and Caroline (C. Kelly Wright) exchange glances while the Radio (From left: Dawn L. Troupe, Adrienne Muller, Marsha Lawson) plays.


"It's a quarter!"
Caroline (C. Kelly Wright), surprises her children (Valisia LeKae, Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman, Brandon Charles Deadwiler) with change.


Act I ends with Noah (Julian Hornik), Caroline (C. Kelly Wright) and Caroline's kids (Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman, Valisia LeKae, Brandon Charles Deadwiler) holding coins up to the Moon (Anise Ritchie).


The Stopnicks and Gellmans celebrate Hanukkah.


Rose (Eileen Tepper) and Caroline (C. Kelly Wright) plead for order as Emmie (Valisia LaKae) and Mr. Stopnick (Randy Nazarian) square off at dinner.


"The twenty's mine, now go away!"
Caroline (C. Kelly Wright) refuses to return the $20 bill to Noah (Julian Hornik).


All photos by David Allen