Caroline, or Change - PLOT SYNOPSIS

Broadway
Caroline, or Change the Musical - PLOT SYNOPSIS

Act One

On a hot day in 1963 in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Caroline, a black maid who works for the Gellman family for $30 a week, launders clothes in the basement. ("Scene 1 Washer/Dryer") The Gellmans' 8-year-old son Noah, whose mother has recently died of cancer, is attracted to Caroline, a no-nonsense single parent. Caroline allows Noah to light her one cigarette each day, a secret they can share. ("Noah Down the Stairs") Caroline puts the laundry in the dryer and sings about her four kids and cleaning houses for 22 years. ("Laundry Finish/The Dryer")

Noah's new stepmother Rose cannot give Caroline a raise, but tells her to take some extra food home to her kids; ("Caroline, There's Extra Food") Caroline declines. Noah's father Stuart, despondent since his wife's death, tells Noah he has lost his faith. ("There is No God, Noah") Noah confesses that he hates Rose. ("Rose Stopnick Can Cook") Rose confesses to her father, Mr. Stopnick, that she is unhappy as well. ("Long Distance")

After work, Caroline argues with her friend Dotty about each other's lifestyles. ("Dotty and Caroline") The moon rises as they wait for a bus. ("Moon Change") They discuss the recent mysterious destruction of a statue of a Confederate soldier at the courthouse. ("Moon Trio") The bus arrives with devastating news: President Kennedy has been assassinated. ("The Bus"/The President is Dead")

Rose tells Noah to stop leaving money in his pants pockets, and that any money Caroline finds in his laundry will be hers to keep. ("Noah and Rose") The Gellman family reminisces about the good President Kennedy did for the Jews—and Dotty reminisces about the good he intended to do for African Americans. (Scene Four - Finale") On the front porch of her house, Caroline tells her teenage daughter Emmie that the president is dead. Emmie says she doesn't care, because JFK never fulfilled his promises to the black community. ("Scene Five") Noah, awake in his bedroom, asks Caroline what laws she would pass if she were president. ("Gonna Pass Me a Law")

Rose tells Caroline she is allowed to keep any money she finds in Noah's pants, to supplement her salary and teach Noah a lesson. ("Noah Has a Problem") Noah, aware of her situation, purposefully leaves his candy and comic book money in his pockets, as well as seventy-five cents. ("The Bleach Cup") Caroline feels bad about keeping it, but does so, out of necessity. ("Roosevelt Petrucius Coleslaw")


Act Two

Caroline, ironing clothes in the basement, remembers her ex-husband, who was kind and thoughtful until he became abusive. ("Ironing") Rose tells Caroline to keep any money Stuart leaves in his clothes as well, ("Mr. Gellman's Shirt"/"Ooh Child"), then asks if she, Dotty, and Emmie will work at her upcoming Chanukah party. ("Rose Recovers")("Dryer Gloria") Caroline's kids encourage her to keep taking the laundry money, because they need it. ("I Saw Three Ships")

At the Chanukah party, Noah educates Emmie about the holiday. ("The Chanukah Party") Rose shoos Noah out of the kitchen, ("Noah, Out! It's Very Rude") and Dotty tells Emmie about the courthouse statue. ("Dotty and Emmie") When Mr. Stopnick belittles Martin Luther King Jr.'s nonviolent civil disobedience, Emmie tells him white people have no right to be critical. ("Mr. Stopnick and Emmie") Mr. Stopnick is impressed with Emmie's bravado, but Caroline tells her she cannot talk that way to white people; Emmie retorts that slavery is over. ("Kitchen Fight") Mr. Stopnick's Chanukah present to Noah is a $20 bill, intended as a life lesson about money and its value. ("A Twenty Dollar Bill and Why") At the bus stop, Emmie says she wants a car and a big house when she grows up. ("I Hate the Bus") Back at the house, Stuart laments that he can give neither Rose nor Noah what they need. ("Moon, Emmie, Stuart Trio")

Noah inadvertently leaves the $20 bill in his pants; after school he rushes to the basement, but Caroline has found it and says she is keeping it, per their agreement. ("The Twenty Dollar Bill"/"The Clock") Noah and Caroline exchange racial insults, then Caroline returns the money and leaves. ("Caroline and Noah Fight") After three days, Caroline has not returned to work. ("Aftermath") That Sunday on her way to church, Caroline realizes that the laundry money had only fostered greed and hatefulness; she asks God to free her from earthly desires. ("Lot's Wife") At church, Caroline gives Emmie a fierce hug. ("How Long Has This Been Going On?")

Noah finally lets Rose tuck him into bed and kiss him goodnight. Caroline returns to work and assures Noah that they'll be friends again. ("Why Does Our House Have a Basement?"/"Underwater") Emmie reveals that she helped take down the Confederate soldier statue, and proudly sings that she is the daughter of a maid, but she will continue to work for a greater cause, and her children will have a brighter future. ("Emmie's Dream/Epilogue")

Songs from musical: Caroline or Change the Musical Lyrics
Synopsis to Caroline or Change the Musical