Monday December 11th 2017

“CROWNS”

It is hard to believe that we first bore witness to Regina Taylor’s “Crowns” based on the book by Craig Marberry with photos by Michael Cunningham, that tells the story of the hats that African American women wear to church, ten years ago. Now, the Goodman Theatre brings it back to its Albert stage with a new look, new songs and a tremendous, powerful cast of performers , through August 12th ( this is already extended by a week from the announced run).The story now begins in Chicago ( a city well known for Gospel) as Yolanda ( the vivacious Marketta P. Wilder) a young lady from Englewood, who has just lost her brother to the violence of the big city streets, is sent to South Carolina to live with Mother Shaw ( played with great intensity by Chicago favorite Felicia P. Fields) so she can learn how to better her life. The music in this almost two hours of story telling starts with “rap” but is filled with glorious Gospel music performed to sweet perfection by an all star cast.

Directed by Ms Taylor, on an almost bare stage ( although the set by Maruti Evans is simple, it helps the story and keeps the focus on the performers and the ears on the story itself) it is the music ( Fred Carl directs, arranges and adds additional pieces) and the story being told that is what makes this almost two hours ( no intermission) seem much shorter. The costumes (Karen Perry), the lighting (Kenneth Posner), the sound(Richard Woodbury) and the projections (Maya Ciarrocchi) are all pieces of the puzzle that fit to perfection in making this a wonderful theatrical experience. While I realize that Gospel music is not for everyone, the way this music is handled and performed will make you forget that it is what it is- it is magic on stage as performed by a strong energetic cast: In addition to Ms Fields and Ms Wilder, our other “hat ladies” are E.Faye Butler ( who always finds a number that is a show stopper), Jasondra Johnson, Alexis J. Rogers and Pauletta Washington ( all strong singers who make the story move along at a great pace). The male performer, taking on many roles/characters is David Jennings ( his range is terrific). If that is not enough, the ensemble that has been added to this production is sterling in movement and voice ( Choreography by Dianne McIntyre); Shari Addison ( who also shows off her range with some solos),Melanie Brezill,Kevin Roston, Jr., Yusha-Marie Sorzano and Laura Walls. The six musicians under Mr Carl’s lead bring just the right flavor to the wonderful musical experience of this production.

This is a story of coming of age for a young woman, who learns through her transport to the South, what the hat, a special part of teh ASfrican American woman’s wardrobe truly means. It is a symbol, one that brings her rights that were not afforded to the African American female in years gone by. If a woman owns enough hats, she becomes a queen, and thus the “CROWN”. In addition to Yolands becoming aware of a different life, she is taught some new values and how the hat became a symbol of success for these women. The number of hats showed your success in life to those who gathered with you at your church and the people who passed by and saw the amazing hats assembled each Sunday. Adorning oneself for worship goes back to Africa and the tribes, but when the African Americans were placed in slavery, ths was not possible. Through time, they were and did so with great pride. The hat also served as a symbol during the Civil Rights Movement and this comes out in this story as well.

No matter your musical likes or dislikes, what “Crowns” brings to life is a satisfying theatrical experiences filled with some of the best Gospel you will ever hear and I guarantee you will be clapping your hands and stomping your feet several times during the course of the performance. Through the stories that Yolanda is told by these “Hat Queens”, she learns about  history and come s to the realization that she herself can pass on this for the future. I suggest you grab your hat and get down to The Goodman as “Crowns” will only be here through August 12th ( a one week extension already) with performances as follows:

Tuesday evenings (starting on the 24th),Wednesday evenings,Thursday evenings and Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m. ( no 7/29 evening),Fridays and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. with matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturdays,Sundays and selected Thursdays)

Tickets range from $31-$88 and can be purchased at the box office ( 170 N. Dearborn), by phone at 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org

As always, the Goodman offers some day of show specials-10TIX, $10 tickets in the rear of the mezzanine for Students with valid ID and Mezztix, half price tickets available at the box office  and online ( use the promo code MEZZTIX)- these are always subject to availability and are day of performances only.

There are also some special features at The Goodman during this run with Gospel singers performing in the lobby, talk backs- to learn more, visit www.GoodmanTheatre.org/Crowns. To see more, visit www.theatreinchicago.com- go to review roundup and see “Crown”

 

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