I’d been waiting for the right occasion to wear my green vintage 1940′s hat with bouffant black ribbons and net. Last week I combined my love of fashion with my love of theatre by attending the opening night of Regina Taylor’s Crowns at the Goodman Theatre.
Crowns is a coming-of-age story about a young woman, Yolanda, from the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago, who is sent to live with her grandmother in the South after the shooting death of her brother. Played by the spunky Marketta P. Wilder, Yolanda is resistant to the ways of the South, including the rituals connected to their spectacular hats.
The pre-show fun included checking out all of the fabulous hats people were wearing. There were flowered headpieces of blue, purple and green, proud fedoras, lazy sun hats, leopard ribbons, dotted black netting, a peach hat with flowing ribbons curling ‘round a tight bun…and my personal favorite, the woman fully adorned in shimmering hot pink from her toes all the way to the rings-of-Saturn brim of her gigantic hat!
The five “crowned” muses of the play – Yolanda’s Southern relatives – use their stories and their voices to help transform Yolanda, each with her own unique personality: the regalness and elegance of Pauletta Washington, the humor and sass of Jasondra Johnson, the quiet strength (and stunning vocals) of Alexis J. Rogers, the tough love of brassy Chicago diva, E. Faye Butler, and the commanding force of star matron, Felicia P. Fields. All Fields had to do was start humming in her first scene to get the audience on her side – where we stayed until the emotional end. With each huskily-belted note and her wide-eyed looks, Fields represents every mother, grandmother and aunt who can hold a child to her bosom while simultaneously smacking some sense into them.
It was difficult not to be moved by this heartfelt and beautifully staged production. I saw the show ten years ago when it first opened at the Goodman, and I found this new version to be more fleshed out and further explored than the first. For this production, Taylor added the element of dance – which for me, completely transformed the show. The entire stage was more “alive.” Dianne McIntyre’s story-telling choreography is spectacularly performed with both passion and technical perfection by a stunning Yusha-Marie Sorzano. Sorzano gives a captivating performance, often from the background, seamlessly transforming from one character to the next with nothing but her movements. The rest of the ensemble – including Shari Addison, Melanie Brezill, David Jennings (Fields’s character’s husband, the charismatic preacher), Kelvin Roston Jr. and Laura Walls – deliver dynamic performances, each giving credence to the earthiness and musical candor that is gospel-based music.
I say, get out your most fabulous hat, wear it with ‘hattitude,’ and run to the Goodman for a fulfilling night of inspiring theatre.
She is fun, fabulous and fierce. She is chic, intelligent and in-the-know. But most of all, the Cheeky chick is the kind of woman who embraces, admires, respects, smiles at and opens her heart to other fabulous chicks. Now THAT'S Cheeky, darling!