Crowns, the play by Regina Taylor currently in residence on the Pasadena Playhouse’s Main Stage, is an ode to the ornate hats worn by African-American women to church. Although the play is set in the South, the original home of these women and their “crowns,” the musical — based on the book pictured at right — celebrates the values of a close-knit family, of sisterhood and of personal dignity shared by African-American women in churches across America. A high-energy production carried by a toe-tapping gospel and jazz score and strong singing performances, Crowns has been packing in the theater-goers, including lots of hat-wearing groups, from alumnae of Howard University to a group of women calling themselves the Razzle Dazzle Ladies.
I’d hoped to get photos of great hats at last Sunday’s matinee, but it turned out to be the least crowned performance. In fact, several attendees professed that it was their love of Regina Taylor’s previous works that drew them to the show, not the chance to wear a hat. Although they may have grown up in communities where “crowns” were commonplace, women such as Opal, an usher at the playhouse, said that in L.A. these days, this play was as close as one could get to the real thing. Ultimately, the crowd at the matinee, diverse in all aspects but age (which understandably was on the mature side), was clearly entertained by the story, music and dance, even if most of the hats were worn by the performers and the ushers.
Crowns ends its run this upcoming weekend — August 16th — so see it while you can. For tickets and showtimes to go to pasadenaplayhouse.org.
— Daniel Siegal