The University’s Court Theatre had a big night at the Jeff Equity Awards, the Chicago equivalent of New York’s Tony awards.
Court’s production of Tony Kushner’s musical “Caroline, or Change” took home four “Jeffs” at the 41st annual Joseph Jefferson awards ceremony on Monday, Oct. 19 at the North Shore Performing Arts Center in Skokie.
In addition to winning the award for Best Musical, the play also earned individual honors for Artistic Director Charles Newell (Best Director in a Musical), E. Faye Butler, (Best Actress – Musical) and Doug Peck (Music Direction).
The awards were the capstone of a successful run for “Caroline, or Change,” a play set in Lake Charles, La. during the peak of the racially turbulent 1960s.
Centering on the relationship between Caroline, an African American maid, and Noah, a young Jewish man, and featuring an eclectic score that combines spirituals, blues, Motown, and Jewish Klezmer music, “Caroline,” was a part of Court’s nearly five-year-old mission to “explore the African American canon.”
The production opened to widespread critical acclaim. Theater critic Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune praised the play as “Charles Newell’s emotionally unstinting and thoroughly gripping four-star production.”
Albert Williams of the Chicago Reader praised E. Faye Butler for bringing “volcanic power” and “impeccable musicianship” to her performance as Caroline. Time Out Chicago wrote the “graceful production blows a hole through the heart.”
The play has proven to be one of Court’s most popular productions. On several nights, standing- room-only crowds delayed the curtain opening by 20 minutes. The run was extended a full week. As a complement to the play, Court invited surviving members of the Negro League to share their experiences in a post-performance conversation.
Next spring, “Caroline” playwright Kushner, winner of a Pulitzer Prize for his drama Angels in America, will visit campus as part of the University of Chicago’s ArtsSpeaks program. Kushner has translated and adapted Pierre Corneille’s The Illusion, which will be performed at the Court Theatre from March 11, 2010 to April 11, 2010.
Kushner also will participate in a public conversation with Newell as part of his ArtSpeaks visit.
For more information on upcoming productions at Court, please visit courtheatre.org.
Josh Schonwald, 773-702-6421