Review: Crowns by Regina Taylor

The National Arts Centre presents
An English Theatre/CanStage (Toronto)/Manitoba Theatre Centre (Winnipeg)
Canadian Premiere coproduction

Adapted from the book by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry
Director and Choreographer…Marion J. Caffery
Musical Director…e’ Marcus Harper
Set and Lighting Designer…Dale F. Jordan
Costume Designer…Phillip Clarkson
Original Sound Designer…Rick Menke
Percussion and new percussion arrangements by…Romero Wyatt
Dance Captain…Michelle E. White
“One of them” written by William F. Hubbard

The Cast (In Alphbetical Order)
Mabel…Toya Alexis
Yolanda…Lisa Bell
Jeanette…Jewelle Blackman
Preacher/Man…Sterling Jarvis
Velma…Bernadine Mitchell
Mother Shaw…Jackie Richardson
Wanda…Michelle E. White

Stage Manager…Jacqueline Dawson
Assistant Stage Manager…Stéphanie Séguin

After the show, we stood in a group in the lobby, and five of our party of six bubbled about how wonderful Crowns was: it was a brilliant entertaining musical astonishingly performed by an enthusiastic, talented group of singers and musicians. The costumes were vivid and delightful; the set was inventive and remarkable; the percussionist had most of the audience agog. All in all, it was a joyous and entertaining spectacle performed by a remarkable group of performers whose voices blended in delicious harmonies. Crowns received a prolonged standing ovation that was well-deserved.

Unfortunately, I was the sixth man out.

I was the gloomy gus who protested that it was not a play. At that, one of my long-suffering friends, a very good friend, turned and walked away. I am certain he was wondering why I could not be satisfied. I know he enjoyed it. But I had gone there to see a play. This was not a play. Entertaining? Yes. Audience enthralling? Yes. But not a play.

Maybe it was my current preoccupation with publishing a poem every day that has burdened me with a preoccupation with words, but I had gone to the theatre with a thirst for words, and I had been served music. It could have been a concert by K. D. Lang or Neil Young or a performance by Cirque de Soleil; wonderful, but I wanted a play, dammit! (I know I have just stepped over the line into screed.) I felt the same way after seeing Morris Panych’s amazing The Overcoat — it was an astonishing piece of performance, even of theatre, just not a play.

I note that the NAC management is careful to remind us that Peter Hinton, the new Artistic Director for English Theatre is not responsible for programming the current season; that was the task of the previous AD, Marti Maraden. I have wondered about some of Ms Maraden’s choices, particularly in the light of the establishment (announced in the current program) of The Marti Maraden Canadian Play Creation Fund, which was established to “. . . support the development and production of new Canadian plays for audiences of all ages through commissioning dramaturgy, workshops, and world premieres.” In Ms Maraden’s own words: “We are Canada’s National Arts Centre. Developing the rich, diverse and unique voices of our country’s playwrights should be at the heart of what we do.” What has puzzled me is the number of times Ms Maraden, advocate for Canadian playwrights, has chosen to present something that was not a play in one of the few precious slots available for plays at the NAC.

It was not a play . . . (whimper.)

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About riverwriter

Poet, playwright, duplicate bridge player, website designer, cottager, husband, father, grandfather, former athlete, carpenter, computer helper for my friends, theatre designer, backstage polymath, retired teacher of highschool English, drama, art, a baritone singer in a barbershop quartet, who knows what else? wordcurrents is on Facebook: Doug also has a Facebook page, "Incognitio", related to his novels.
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