"Crowns"opens at Syracuse Stage

(Cora Thomas hosts "Sunday Morning Gospel" on WAER 88.3 FM. She and her family host a dessert reception at Syracuse Stage before this Sunday's 7:00 PM performance as a special outreach to the African American community and a benefit for the Stage. This photo hung over the fireplace on April 29th when SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor hosted a reception to celebrate the "Crowns" production and photographer Brantley Carroll's latest work, a series of portraits of Syracuse's own queens. Photo (c) Brantley Carroll, used with permission.)

A strange thing happened at Sunday night's dress rehearsal of "Crowns," which opens at Syracuse Stage this week. Having already performed this play, which is produced in association with Indiana Repertory Theatre and Connecticut Repertory Theatre, the cast and crew were mainly adjusting everything to a new space. But more than a run-through was going on here -- enough to make a reporter forget to take notes.

Director Patdro Harris is also a choreographer and it shows, from the opening angry rap of Brooklyn tomboy Yolanda (Shannon Antalan), followed by a swirling church procession led by her grandmother, Mother Shaw (Chandra Currelley), that comes to rest almost magically -- this is how you accomplish a transition on stage normally reserved for the movies -- as the five ladies turn together and are suddenly in their slips, getting ready for church that morning, to the show-stopping rendition of "His Eye is on the Sparrow" by the purple-clad Velma (Roz White). Over a day's time, embraced by these church women and their stories, Yolanda perceptibly grows in voice and stature, and takes her place as a young lady.

Deirdre Guioni first put it this way. "'Hattitude' is something you have to possess in order to wear a hat well. There's a little more strut in your carriage when you wear a nice hat."

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