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Review: Crowns (Goodman Theatre)

| July 10, 2012 | 1 Comment

Jasondra Johnson (Velma) demonstrates “hattitude” in Regina Taylor’s 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)        
       
Crowns 

Written and Directed by Regina Taylor 
Adapted from book by Michael Cunningham
       and Craig Marberry
at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map)
thru Aug 12  |  tickets: $31-78   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets  
         
        Read entire review
     



     
       

Chicago’s got “Hattitude”!

     

(Center) Yusha-Marie Sorzano (Ensemble) dances in Regina Taylor’s 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre (photo credit: Liz Lauren).

    
Goodman Theatre presents
    
Crowns

Review by Katy Walsh 

I love hats!  They serve as a fashion statement and cover up flawed hair.  Until the late sixties, the Catholic Church required them at mass.  So every Easter, my sisters and I would get to pick out a new outfit:  dress + hat. I focused on the hat part because there were only ever a couple dress choices in Sears’ limited-chubby-girl section. But hats fit everyone. I could select from any of the pretty hats in the store.  And, I always took (Center) Marketta P. Wilder as Yolanda in Regina Taylor’s 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre (photo credit: Liz Lauren)special care to find *the one* that would make me feel most beautiful.        

Goodman Theatre presents the all-new 10th anniversary production of Crowns.  Yolanda lives in Chicago’s Englewood.  She self-identifies with the edgy neighborhood.  She expresses her pride in spoken word and street dancing.  When her brother is murdered, she is sent to her grandma’s in South Carolina.  Mother Shaw and her church-going ladies share their stories of sorrow and joy with her.  Each tale is accompanied by the perfect hat for the life occasion. Initially, Yolanda resents the culture shock.  Eventually, she finds solace and herself in the Southern rituals that link to her African heritage.  Crowns wears many hats in this poignant journey to self discovery.   

This show reminds me of Love, Loss and What I Wore (also starring the magnificent Felicia P. Fields).  Women relate personal stories to an article of clothing.  Crowns has that same humorous structure but the connection is deeper and more soul stirring.  It’s not just about “here’s why this is my favorite hat.”  It’s more about the crowning achievement that the hat symbolizes in ancestral history.  Adapter and director Regina Taylor ensures the past is always present with a chorus dressed in earthy, colorful garb to contrast the dazzling sophistication of the church ladies (costume designer Karen Perry).  Movement becomes part of the linkage from then-and-now and life-and-death.  An exquisite Yusha-Marie Sorzano reinforces the verbal story with transfixing, flowing physicality.  Choreographer Dianne McIntyre masterfully incorporates a broad spectrum of dance elements from tribal to tap to b-boxing.  These aesthetic visuals pop on the wooden, sleek backdrop designed by Maruti Evans.  The sides move in and out to frame the focal point.  Visual projections by Maya Ciarrocchi take us to the urban essences of Englewood and later to the soothing waters of transformation.  The imagery is gorgeous. So, that’s what Crowns looks like.        

David Jennings as the Preacher in the 10th anniversary production of Regina Taylor’s Crowns at Goodman Theatre. (photo credit: Liz Lauren) Felicia P. Fields as Mother Shaw (center) with ensemble members Shari Addison, Yusha-Marie Sorzano and Laura Walls in Regina Taylor’s 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)
E. Faye Butler as Mabel in the 10th anniversary production of Regina Taylor’s Crowns at Goodman Theatre. (photo credit: Liz Lauren) (Left to right) Ensemble members Shari Addison, Melanie Brezill, Kelvin Roston and Laura Walls in Regina Taylor’s 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)
Pauletta Washington as Wanda in Regina Taylor’s 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre. (photo credit: Liz Lauren) (Center) Kelvin Roston (Ensemble) dances in Regina Taylor’s 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)

What does it sound like?  It sounds like Jesus asked Regina Taylor to handpick a hallelujah chorus of biblical proportions. Can I get an amen?  Chicago legends E. Faye Butler (Mabel) and Felicia P. Fields (Mother Shaw) anchor the show with their glorious diva melodies and their hilarious moxie.  These ladies don’t just sing from the heart, they gloriously reverberate from deep within their souls. AMEN! Butler has a superb showstopper moment singing about being a preacher’s wife.  The entire cast energetically sings and dances for a wondrous baptism by fire. In particular, Marketta P. Wilder (Yolanda) transforms from mourning to celebrating. Wilder powerfully expresses her rage and later her epiphany. The transition left me misty and full-hearted.

Crowns inspires with its upbeat spirituality, sisterhood solidarity and ‘hattitude.’ If I could sing like these women, I would don a hat and join their chorus. These crowns beckon to be worn by everybody and not just on Sunday.

  
Rating: ★★★½
  
   

Crowns continues through August 12th in Goodman’s Albert Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map), with performances Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:30pm, Thursdays 2:30pm and 7:30pm, Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 2pm and 8pm, and Sundays 2pm and 7:30pm.  Tickets are $31-$78, and are available by phone (312-443-3800) or through Goodman’s website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at GoodmanTheatre.org(Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes, no intermission)

(Left to right) Kelvin Roston (Ensemble), Shari Addison (Ensemble), Melanie Brezill (Ensemble), Laura Walls (Ensemble), Marketta P. Wilder (Yolanda), Felicia P. Fields (Mother Shaw), Alexis J. Rogers (Jeanette), E. Faye Butler (Mabel), Pauletta Washington (Wanda) and Jasondra Johnson (Velma) in Regina Taylor’s 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre (photo credit: Liz Lauren)

Photos by Liz Lauren


     

artists

cast

E. Faye Butler (Mabel); Felicia P. Fields (Mother Shaw); David Jennings (Man, Preacher); Jasondra Johnson (Velma); Alexis J. Rogers (Jeanette); Pauletta Washington (Wanda); Marketta P. Wilder (Yolanda); Yusha-Marie Sorzano (dance captain, ensemble); Shari Addison, Melanie Brezill, Kelvin Roston, Jr., Laura Walls (ensemble)

orchestra 

Fred Carl (conductor); Ruben P. Alvarez (percussion); Miguel de la Cerna (keyboard); Y.L. Douglas (drums); Terry Moore (keyboard); Felton Offard (guitar); Chuck Webb (bass)

behind the scenes

Regina Taylor (director, playwright); Dianne McIntyre (choreography); Ni’Ja Whitson (asst. choreographer); Fred Carl (music director, incidental music, arrangements and orchestrations); Jaret Landon (asst. music director); Maruti Evans (set); Karen Perry (costumes); Kenneth Posner (lighting); Greg Hofmann (asst. lighting); Richard Woodbury (sound design); Maya Ciarrocchi (projections); David Tennent (projections assistant); Tanya Palmer (dramaturg); Alden Vasquez (production stage manager); Jamie Wolfe (stage manager); Katharine Lloyd, Brae Singleton (asst. stage managers); Chloe Johnston, Jade Lambert-Smith, Sonita Surratt (assistants to the director); Ruben P. Alvarez (music consultant); Jon Spiegel (musical contractor); David Pleasant (ring shout consultant); Amaniyea Payne (dance consultant); Liz Lauren (photos); Robert Falls (artistic director); Roche Edward Schulfer (executive director); 

Alexis J. Rogers as Jeanette in Regina Taylor’s 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)

3-words: Wishing grandma had left us nice hats, Cousin Jennie describes it with ‘powerful beautiful singing.’

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Category: 2012 Reviews, Albert Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Katy Walsh, Musical

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