“Crowns” a Rollicking Musical at Taproot Theatre

I must begin with a disclaimer. I love gospel music, have been a fan for years and have seen performances on the East Coast, in the Midwest, and now in Seattle. This Seattle production wraps a story around the music, and that theatrical effect gives the overall presentation an opportunity to incorporate humor and plot into the evening. But the story is really secondary. It’s the music (directed by Aaron Norman) that overwhelms, causes you to bounce around in your seat, and provides the greatest pleasure.

Director Faith Bennett Russell, wisely focuses her cast throughout the production around the music. Six women and one man know this music and have personal experience with its power. They belt it out with an infectious joie de vivre. I defy you to sit quietly in your seat. If you aren’t yelling out your “huzzas”, you’re tapping your feet and wriggling in your seat to match the tempo.

Be Russell, Bethanie Willis and Tracy Michelle Hughes. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

The story is a simple one. Black women have a history with hats. Hats define them, connect them to their community and its past, give them status, and, on this stage, assist in their efforts to mend the heart and mind of Yolanda, a young woman going through a difficult period in her life. Hats are de rigueur for church on Sundays, and have been for centuries. You can tell a lot about a woman by the hat she’s wearing, and the women in this musical presentation have an enormous variety of amazing chapeaux to select from.

In their hats, this chorus belts out those gospel harmonies, blues notes, and religious verities. They dance, they praise the lord, and they fill their audience with a sense of wellbeing and appreciation. It’s toe tapping, arm waving, robust music whose appeal is hard to ignore. You certainly don’t have to be African American to find it mesmerizing. And of course, we can’t forget that it was an enormous influence on the greatest musical stars of the ’60s.

So, if you are looking for an evening at the theatre that will gladden your heart and fill you with positive spirits, consider Taproot’s current production.

Through April 28, at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St., Seattle, 206-781-9707, taproottheatre.org.

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