southtownstar
SPOTTY 
Weather Updates

Goodman’s revival of ‘Crowns’ better than the original

‘CROWNS’

◆ Through Aug. 12

◆ Goodman Theatre,
170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago

◆ Tickets, $31-$88

◆ (312) 443-3800; goodmantheatre.org

Article Extras
Story Image
Maps

Updated: September 4, 2012 6:08AM



On its own, Regina Taylor’s new production of “Crowns” is a gem of a spiritual musical.

But in light of the crimes and murder sweeping our neighborhoods, the show is more relevant than ever.

The gospel-layered musical was a hit when it first opened 10 years ago.

Now, with new musical numbers, new scenes and an extraordinary cast, the revival that is being staged at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago is better than the original.

The show opens in Chicago’s Englewood community as teenage Yolanda grieves over the senseless gang killing of her brother.

With concern for her daughter’s safety and welfare, Yolanda’s mother sends her to her grandmother in Darlington, S.C.

At first Yolanda wants to turn around and return to Englewood, but she changes her mind when she begins to understand her heritage and the courage and wisdom of her ancestors.

Yolanda comes to this knowledge with the love and help of her grandmother and her grandmother’s circle of friends — all of whom wear hats, or crowns, not just for social status but as a symbol of their stand against the bigotry and oppression they’ve experienced.

Originally adapted by Taylor from the book by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry, this reincarnation directed by Taylor conjures up powerful images from the past and takes a realistic look at the present.

Thanks to Dianne McIntyre’s choreography, the dance moves in the show are stylish and evocative.

Musical director Fred Carl does a wonderful job with traditional gospel numbers such as “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and “Walk All Over God’s Heaven.”

Of course, the jewel of a show sparkles because of some golden-voiced singers.

Anchoring the production as the wise grandmother is Felicia Fields, who was nominated for a Tony Award for “The Color Purple.”

The beloved diva from Blue Island struts her stuff and comes through with a hand-clapping exuberant rendition of “I’m on the Battlefield,” and almost stops the show with her talent for delicious rap.

Marketta P. Wilder, of Riverdale, is a hoot in a compelling turn as an energetic Yolanda, and E. Faye Butler is, as always, charismatic, especially when she belts out “Run and Tell That.”

Also contributing is David Jennings, a superb dancer who is a delight in a variety of roles that include a gospel preacher, a middle-aged husband and a teenage boy.

“Crowns,” which also stars Jasondra Johnson from Calumet City, is more than a terrific entertainment.

It is a spiritual wake-up call for us all.

Betty Mohr is a local freelance writer.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.