Directed and and choreographed by Kenneth Lee Roberson (Avenue Q), the production will officially open April 2 at 8 PM in Arena's Lincoln Theatre. Performances continue through April 26.
The production marks the fourth staging of Crowns at Arena. The musical made its Arena debut during the 2003-04 season — winning four Helen Hayes Awards, including Best Resident Musical — and returned for a limited engagement that summer. Arena again produced Crowns in summer 2005.
The new production boasts Marva Hicks (The Women of Brewster Place) and E. Faye Butler (Dinah Was, Ain't Misbehavin') as well as NaTasha Yvette Williams (Broadway's The Color Purple), Mary Millben, Kara Tameika Watkins, Phillip Boykin and Zurin Villanueva. Swings are Betty Carter, Lulu Fall and Stephawn Stephens.
In a recent statement director-choreographer Roberson said, "Crowns is a pageant, in the great African-American tradition of pageants. This show teaches audiences about the values, style and grace of the African-American church community. Crowns demonstrates the handing down of culture from one generation to the next and celebrates the refuge, equality and healing that occurs in this place of spirituality."
Arena Stage artistic director Molly Smith added, "The beauty of Crowns is in the stories and the relationship between the women. It's a show about community, and it beautifully articulates the ties that bind us all. We are particularly excited to stage this show at the Lincoln Theatre, the historical home of so many great African-American performers like Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday." Written by Regina Taylor and adapted from the book by photographer Michael Cunningham and journalist Craig Marberry, Crowns, according to press notes, "takes an intimate look at six women whose storied lives are woven into the hats that adorn their heads. This gospel-infused musical presents an oral history of the African-American women affectionately known as 'hat queens,' as seen through the eyes of Yolanda, a Brooklyn teenager sent to live with her South Carolinian grandmother."
The Arena production also features musical direction by Grammy nominee e'Marcus Harper, set design by Neil Patel, costume design by Austin K. Sanderson, light design by Nancy Schertler and sound design by Timothy Thompson. The musical contractor is Rita Eggert, and stage manager is Amber Dickerson.
Tickets may be purchased online at www.arenastage.org, by phone at (202) 488-3300 or at the Arena Stage Sales Office at 1800 S. Bell Street, Arlington, VA.