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A Spirit Tested

Elden Street Players to present “Caroline, or Change.”

Fifty years ago Sam Cooke sang, "It's been a long time coming, but I know a change gon' come. Oh yes it will." It was the time of the civil rights movement and the assassination of President Kennedy.

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Anya Randall Nebel as Caroline Thibodeaux and John Ray as Noah Gellman in rehearsal for the Elden Street Players production of “Caroline, or Change.”

In 2003 "Caroline, or Change," the multiple Tony Award nominated musical with book and lyrics by Pulitzer award winner Tony Kushner and music by Jeanine Teson, explores 1963 from the perspective of Caroline Thibodeaux, a black maid in the Gellman household in Lake Charles, La.

Caroline spends her days in the basement, doing the Gellman's laundry. She doesn't earn much and struggles as a single mother to support her own family. The Gellman's young son Noah is struggling too; his mother died from cancer and his father remarried. Noah now has a stepmother, Rose.

The core of "Caroline, or Change" swirls about a particular flash point: an unintended humiliation involving money, both coins and paper, and the vastly different meanings that Caroline, Noah and Rose give to money and personal interactions.

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Anya Randall Nebel as Caroline Thibodeaux and Aidan White as Noah Gellman.

According to Evan Hoffman, production director, he "has been very affected by the play and felt a deep connection to its themes" since he first saw "Caroline, or Change" on Broadway. "Change is so hard, there are so many challenges for any of us," said Hoffman. And he wants the audience "to be incredibly moved by the grand dramatic scale of this musical."

A 10-piece orchestra under the music direction of veterans J. Michael d’Haviland and Elisa Rosman will be powering the wide-ranging song score of spirituals, blues, Motown, the classics, folk music and Jewish klezmer infused tunes. The musical score is "familiar, powerful and honest to the period," said Hoffman.

Caroline is played by Anya Randall Nebel, a professional Broadway road show veteran in musicals such as "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Godspell."

When and Where

Elden Street Players present "Caroline or Change" at the Industrial Strength Theater, 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon. Performances: Aug. 2-24—Thursdays, Aug. 15 and 22, at 8 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays, Aug. 4 at 3 p.m., and Aug. 11 and 18 at 7 p.m. Tickets: $23 general admission. Call 703-481-5930 or visit www.eldenstreetpl...>

For Nebel, Caroline is "the role of a lifetime, a perfect role about a woman on a journey, with many obstacles to overcome." Nebel wants the audience to delve into her character to "understand and feel that change is good but not always easy."

Rose is played by Shaina L. Murphy, who recently returned to the area after working in New York City off-Broadway musicals. A Robinson High School graduate, Murphy auditioned for the character since Rose "has quite a journey of learning for the audience to witness."