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‘Caroline, or Change’ Then and Now, With Anika Noni Rose and Samantha Williams

·2 min read

The first thing audiences see at the new Broadway revival of “Caroline, or Change” is a statue of a Confederate soldier that, early on in the show, gets torn down in an act of protest. It’s a story element that could have been ripped from today’s headlines — but instead it’s a remarkably prescient detail in a musical that premiered in 2003.

Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:

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“There was a foresight in that,” said Anika Noni Rose, the busy actor (“Maid,” “Jingle Jangle,” “The Princess and the Frog”) who won a Tony Award for her performance as Emmie, the title character’s daughter, in the first Broadway run of “Caroline, or Change.” “Statues are coming down!”

On the new episode of Stagecraft, Rose talked with Samantha Williams, the actor playing Emmie in the new production, about their shared connection to the musical by Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori, and about how the story — centered around a Black maid in 1963 Louisiana — resonates even more universally today that it did in 2003.

“I feel like, even last year when I was doing it [in rehearsals prior to the COVID-19 shutdown], it was really big for all the Black people in the cast,” Williams said. “But now that it’s 2021, and we had this year of a pandemic where it feels like white people kind of woke up to what was happening and what we have to deal with every day, and what we see in our communities and our neighborhoods, what we’ve seen for years — now it’s resonating with the world.”

Rose agreed. “This [show] is so many peoples’ stories,” she said. “This is the south and the north. This is Black people. This is Jewish culture. This is the melding of those things together… It’s young people and grown people. It’s the beginning and the end of life. It’s all of those things.”

She added, “I think the people coming now will see it from a very different perspective than they did when we first performed it. Maybe they will be even more open to walk out of that theater and make their own change.”

Also on the new episode of Stagecraft, Rose and Williams shared memories and insights from their experiences in the show and talked about the challenge of playing a 15-year-old poised between childhood and adulthood. Williams also got a chance to tell Rose how much she valued Rose’s work as Tiana, the first Black Disney princess.

“Oh my God, now I’m crying!” Samantha said to Rose. “It just means so much to me. Thank you.”

To hear the full conversation, listen at the link above or download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and the Broadway Podcast Network. New episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every other week.

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