Thursday, April 26, through Sunday, May 6
The Black Box Theatre, 1623 Fifth Avenue, Moline IL
Described by TheatreMania.com as “an artful amalgamation of oral history, fashion show, and musical theatre,” Crowns: A Gospel Musical will fill Moline's Black Box Theatre with glorious singing and spectacular style April 26 through May 6, author Regina Taylor's tune-filled play lauded by the New York Times as “wholly theatrical” and “a show that seems to arise out of spontaneous combustion.”
Based on the book by Michael Cunningman and Craig Mayberry, Crowns: A Gospel Musical is a moving, celebratory work in which hats become a springboard for an exploration of black history and identity as seen through the eyes of Yolanda, a young black woman who travels south to stay with her aunt after her brother is killed in Brooklyn. Hats are everywhere, in exquisite variety, and the characters use them to tell tales concerning everything from the etiquette of hats to their historical and contemporary social functioning. There is a hat, we learn, for every occasion, from flirting to churchgoing to funerals to baptisms, and the tradition of hats is traced back to African rituals and slavery and forward to the New Testament and current fashion. Gospel music, rap, and dance underscore and support the narratives of cultural significance and independent identity, rusilting in a production the Star-Ledger called “warm, wise, and wonderful.”
Cynthia Westbrook Bryson, famed for her performances with the area gospel ensemble The Westbrook Singers, co-directs Crowns: A Gospel Musical alongside the Black Box Theatre's co-founder and artistic director Lora Adams, herself the director of the venue's Murderers, Love Letters, and It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. Adams is also responsible for the show's set and costume design, with the production's lighting design by co-founder David Miller and the musical's hats designed by Susan Snider. Six gifted performers, meanwhile, fill out the Crowns ensemble: Loreida Dixon, Amari Antoinette Harris, Bonnie Jacobs, Cynthia Johnson, Geraldine Sumrall, and AJ Williams.
Crowns: A Gospel Musical will be performed Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. (no show on May 5) and Sundays at 2:30 p.m., tickets are $16, and more information and reservations are available by calling (563)284-2350 or visiting TheBlackBoxTheatre.com.