“Crowns” is a fantastic musical now playing at Creative Cauldron that proudly details the important role that women’s hats have played in the black community and church. Written by Regina King and based on the book of the same title written by Craig Marberry with photographs by Michael Cunningham, the play intersperses moments of personal testimony from a diverse group of black women with beautifully arranged and performed sacred songs and spirituals.
… a not to be missed night of song and stories that illuminates the power of adorning one’s head with a crown.
A young woman from Brooklyn, Yolanda (played with heart-breaking pathos by Kendall Arin Claxton) loses her brother to gun violence and her mother sends her south to live with her grandmother, the phenomenal TiaJuana Rountree, a former member of Grammy-nominated a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock.
As Yolanda struggles to make sense of her loss, she is mentored by a circle of women in Mother Shaw’s church who share stories about what the tradition of wearing beautiful hats means to each of them. Each woman in the small cast does an outstanding job of bringing her unique personality and history through her various soliloquies. Iyona Blake, Kelli Blackwell, Cameron Dashiell, and Eirin Stevenson, as well as Claxton and Rountree, are to be commended for their powerful performances.
The women are ably supported by sole male actor Stephawn P. Stephens who steps into the shoes of any male character needed in support of the women’s stories, from a father to a preacher, to a husband and brother. Each actor is a gifted vocalist and we are treated to numerous amazing solos throughout the night as well as highly sophisticated ensemble work.
Music Director Cedric D. Lyles supervised the original arrangements of over twenty hymns and spirituals and the musical numbers, aided by co-music director Greg Watkins on keyboard, are simply gorgeous. And the hats! Costume Designer Margie Jervis has outdone herself in finding beautiful pieces that fit each character’s personality.
The play provides a rich education into the history and culture of women’s hats in the black community while being emotional and entertaining at the same time. I highly recommend “Crowns,” co-directed by Kara Tameika Watkins and Ian Anthony Coleman, as a not to be missed night of song and stories that illuminate the power of adorning one’s head with a crown.
Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes with no intermission
“Crowns” by Creative Cauldron plays through March 8, 2020. For more information, click here.