‘Crowns’ uses comedy, music to deliver serious message

Beginning with the dramatic beat of the drum and a soothing jazz sound, the attention of the audience is successfully captured. Although unique, a rap performed by character Yolanda, performed by Toi Whitaker, suddenly interrupted the calm sound of the live jazz band with a supposed hardcore New York accent that gives a summary of the play.

Centered on the Yolanda, the play is about a 15-year-old girl from Brooklyn, N.Y., who was sent to live with her grandmother down south after her older brother was murdered.

Though I understand that Whitaker’s accent was not genuine or spoken by a native New Yorker, she did a good job at convincing the audience of her character’s origins.

The ensemble, made up of eight women and one man, fully captures the attention of the audience with their beautiful voices as they perform the song, “In the Morning.” It was refreshing to see that each member of the ensemble represented an African spirit.

“I was the link between the heavens and humans,” said Arion J. Friday, the only male in the play whose African spirit was named “Elegba-Orisha of crosswords.”

“I was there to lead Yolanda to positive influences and also served as the male influence in the other women’s storied,” Friday said.

During “Crowns,” each woman explained her own individual story and explanation behind the hats and the way they wear them.

The ensemble not only had heavenly singing voices, they also had wonderful speaking voices, leaving the audience yearning for more.

Each solo had an original message and each soloist did an extraordinary job at singing their way into the hearts of the audience members.

“I enjoyed the singing, choreography and costumes,” said Cindy Peters, an Education Abroad coordinator at Florida A&M University.

“The play did a great job at telling a brief history of hats and how they take on an identity of their own, also showing how the traditions of hats are still carried on today.”

The play was set in a church, and the programs that were given out resembled those of a church service.

Split into seven different themes, beginning with the prologue and ending with the evening recessional, each story had its own unique way of depicting a woman’s life.

Incorporating African, jazz and ballet dancing into the choreography “Crowns” proved to be more than just an average musical play.

“My favorite part was the ring shot and dance afterwards – the rebellion dance – because I started as a dancer and that is my true element,” said Whitaker, who played Yolanda, and is a 22-year-old sophomore theater student from Raleigh, N.C.

Though “Crowns” had a serious message – the progression of a young girl from a life of chaos to a life of unity and love – the play added just enough comedy to keep the audience satisfied.

The actor and actresses did a great job of keeping the attention of the audience and not appearing tired because, after all, they performed the whole play without an intermission, which was a personal favorite.

After receiving a standing ovation from the crowd, “Crowns” receives nothing less than an A.

Grade: A

Contact Katrelle Simmons at famuanlifestyles@hotmail.com