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While Steppenwolf occupies itself with Russian “Sisters,” the Goodman is mounting a musical with sisters of a different sort. “Crowns,” the soulful musical brainchild of Goodman mainstay Regina Taylor. Inspired by real-life stories of Black women and the extravagant and fabulous hats that adorn their heads, “Crowns” hits its stride about 20 minutes in when the ensemble settles into a church to tell their stories.
The women have lived with heavy topics like persecution and death, and more light-hearted travails like bickering with a husband over buying too many hats; but no matter the situation, the lesson remains the same: stay poised and proper, holding your heads up high to keep your hats in place.
Originally penned a decade ago, “Crowns” has been updated to reflect cultural shifts in the past 10 years. The new script follows a “urban” youth from Engelwood who has lost her brother; she’s angsty, emotional, and, unfortunately, a bit cliche. The language and staging of her initial story remain a bit too vague to prick like specificity can. Nevertheless, the bulk of the show centers on stories around this main thread.
Plenty of humor along with powerhouse voices make “Crowns” entertaining and occasionally emotional. While an overall narrative might not move you, individual performances and ensemble numbers make the song cycle a strong performance piece. Felicia P. Fields is particularly impressive as the soulful, wise Mother Shaw. While the character of an older, wise Black women is as well-worn as a old baseball cap, it doesn’t keep her from being entertaining as hell – or heaven.
Head to “Crowns” at the Goodman Theatre through August 12. For more information, visit http://www.goodmantheatre.org