“Crowns” Review – Ten Years of Inspiration

When I think of women’s hats, an Easter Parade comes to mind.   But in the 10th year celebration of Crowns, by Goodman Theatre Artistic Associate and “triple threat” Playwright/Director/Actor Regina Taylor women’ hats take on a role that is powerful and all embracing.  Even before the play began the hats had an important role.  In the Goodman Theatre lobby there was a party-like atmosphere with many audience members dressed to the “nines” and wearing beautiful, creative hats.  Hatless, I considered purchasing something for my head at the gift shop, but decided to just enjoy looking at the fantastic hat creations around me.


Regina Taylor explains that, “Having recently moved here, I wanted Chicago to be part of the story. We’re adding new original music and commissioned spoken word pieces to complement the gospel music, and I’m framing the piece around Yolanda. I’m interested in the ways in which stories and storytelling connect us to our community, and am in dialogue with the teenage poets of Louder Than a Bomb—to connect with the ‘Yolandas’ in Chicago and give an outlet for their voices—and students of Columbia College to develop the dance vocabulary, alongside our fantastic choreographer Dianne McIntyre. As it’s living on the stage, I hope that Crowns will live outside of the theater and speak to those different areas in Chicago.”


Taylor has engaged community partners and used workshops to explore and deepen the spoken word, dance and music elements to update and revitalize this all-new 10th anniversary production. The result is extraordinary offering bits of history, geography, psychology, art, music dance and amazing use of special effects and staging. There was a poignant story, moving music, captivating dancing, glamorous costumes, spectacular sets, and lots and lots and lots of hats.  The audience loved it responding with laughter, interactive clapping and at the end, a standing ovation.


Yolanda is a girl from Englewood whose brother was murdered.  Hoping to keep Yolanda safe and to help her heal, her mother sends her to her grandmother’s home in Darlington, South Carolina.  In Darlington, Yolanda is lonesome and unhappy, grieving for her brother.  Around her women of the community share their individual stories of their hats.  In one instance Mabel’s husband points out the she only has one head.  There was also plenty of “Hattitude”. Crowns is a celebration of the individuality of the human spirit and how one generation shares their traditions with the next.  In the end Yolanda develops a new respect for those who came before her, how they coped, their bravery- she finds strength in the tales of the wise women who surround her—and the powerful rituals connected to their dazzling hats. Crowns is distinguished by being the most-produced new musical in the US during the past decade.  It has been seen by more than one million audience members.


The ensemble cast includes several “leading ladies” of the American theater, including E. Faye Butler as Mabel, Felicia Fields (Tony-nominated for The Color Purple) as Mother Shaw, Alexis Rogers as Jeanette and Pauletta Washington as Wanda; newcomers Jasondra Johnson (Velma) and Marketta P. Wilder (Yolanda) were cast from hundreds of hopefuls in Taylor’s open audition for emerging Chicago actors. Also featured is David Jennings as the preacher, and Taylor’s newly created five-member ensemble features Chicago talents including Shari Addison, Melanie Brezill, Kelvin Roston, Yusha-Marie Sorzano and Laura Walls. The creative team includes music director Fred Carl, projection designer Maya Ciarrocchi, set designer Maruti Evans, choreographer Dianne McIntyre, costume designer Karen Perry, lighting designer Ken Posner and sound designer Richard Woodbury.


This production is wonderful and highly recommended.  Since the production has been extended there is no excuse not to see it.  But I suggest, ladies, you do wear a hat


Goodman Theatre adds eight performances of Regina Taylor’s hit musical Crowns in a one-week extension through August 12. Tickets for the additional performances ($29 - $88) are now on sale and can be purchased at GoodmanTheatre.org/Crowns, by phone at 312.443.3800 or at the box office (170 North Dearborn). Target is the Major Corporate Sponsor of Crowns and JP Morgan Chase and PwC are Corporate Sponsor Partners. Chicago Tribune is a Media Partner. American Airlines is the Exclusive Airline of Goodman Theatre.

Tuesday, August 7…………...7:30pm
Wednesday, August 8……….7:30pm
Thursday, August 9…………..7:30pm
Friday, August 10……………..8pm
Saturday, August 11………….2pm and 8pm
Sunday, August 12…………...2pm and 7:30pm


Photos: Liz Lauren





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