Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

Hallelujah! The Revival of “Crowns” Might Be Better Than the Original

"Crowns" closes Dec. 19th in Raleigh and reopens Jan. 28th in Sanford

"Crowns" closes Dec. 19th in Raleigh and reopens Jan. 28th in Sanford

The 2010 revival of Burning Coal Theatre Company’s powerhouse production of Regina Taylor’s exuberant gospel musical, Crowns, staged Dec. 2-19 in Burning Coal Theatre at the Murphey School in Raleigh and Jan. 28-Feb. 6 at Temple Theatre in Sanford, might be even better than the original.

With most of the original 2008 cast reprising their roles, under the always dynamic direction of Rebecca Holderness, Crowns is a visceral roof-raising celebration in music, dance, and drama of African-American church women and their hats. Big ones, small ones, with and without ribbons, feathers, etc., these Sunday-go-to-meeting chapeaus are more than a fashion statement — they are a celebration of black womanhood and continuation of a tradition of dressing up for special occasions that goes all the way back to Africa.

The latest-and-greatest version of Crowns once again features luminous performances by Joan J as Mother Shaw, the rock-solid matriarch of her Darlington, SC clan, and Milwaukee-based dance-theater artist and Crowns choreographer Naima Adedapo as her troubled granddaughter Yolanda, sent south from her native Brooklyn to recover from the tragic shooting death of her brother.

With Joan J providing a solid center and recent University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate Toni Martin substituting most impressively for Naima Adedapo, last Sunday’s matinee performance of Crowns never skipped a beat. Paul Garrett was wonderful as Father Shaw, a charismatic Preacher, a Procession Leader, etc. Yolanda Rabun, LeDawna Akins, Sherida McMullan, and Emelia “Me-Me” Cowans vividly portrayed various other outspoken female pillars of the congregation; and C. Delton Streeter also gave a memorable performance in the dual role of a Young Man in Darlington and Yolanda’s Younger Brother in Brooklyn.

Crowns also features robust accompaniment by musical director Jan Powell and flamboyant fashions by costume designer Vicki R. Davis. Crowns is more than a musical; it is a celebration of a centuries-old tradition. And the black gospel numbers that punctuate the performance make Crowns a praise worship service as well. Hallelujah!

2010 SECOND OPINION: Dec. 8, 2010 Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Zack Smith (who awarded the show 3.5 of 5 stars):; and Dec. 7, 2010 Raleigh, NC Classical Voice of North Carolina review by Scott Ross: (To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Dec. 3, 2010 Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click 2008 SECOND OPINION: April 16, 2008 Raleigh, NC Classical Voice of North Carolina review by Robert W. McDowell:; April 16, 2008 Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Megan Stein:; and April 11, 2008 Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview Orla Swift:

Burning Coal Theatre Company presents CROWNS at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18 and 2 p.m. Dec. 19 in Burning Coal Theatre at the Murphey School, 224 Polk St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604; and 8 p.m. Jan. 28, 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 29, 2 p.m. Jan. 30, 8 p.m. Feb. 4, 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 5, and 2 p.m. Feb. 6 at 120 Carthage St., Sanford, North Carolina 27330.

TICKETS: $15 ($12 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel), except Dec. 5th pay-what-you-can performance, $10 Thursdays, $5 Student Rush Tickets (available at the door 5 minutes before the curtain), and $10 tickets on Thursdays and $12-per-person for groups of 10 or more.

BOX OFFICE: Raleigh: 919/834-4001 or Sanford: 919/774-4155,, or


STUDY GUIDE (from the McCarter Theatre):


PRESENTERS: Burning Coal Theatre Company: Temple:

VENUE/DIRECTIONS: Raleigh: Sanford: and


The Play: (Internet Off-Broadway Database).

The Playwright: (Wikipedia), (Internet Off-Broadway Database), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Internet Movie Database).

The Coffee-Table Book: (Random House).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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