By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The barebones story line really is just an excuse to string together a series of hat-related anecdotes, interspersed with gospel songs. The music is Crowns' real glory and where it rises above mere haberdashery. Two musicians--pianist Sanford Moore and percussionist S-Ankh Rasa--manage to fill the theater like a 50-piece orchestra. And the women's voices, pure, warm and strong, are thrilling as they lean into familiar old hymns. When Denise Lee throws her whole body behind "His Eye Is on the Sparrow," your goosebumps will get goosebumps.
Each performer in Crowns gets a moment or two or three in the spotlight. (Lee also sings a rockin' "Rock of Ages.") But it's the hat-centric conversation that starts to wear this show down. We get the "Hat Queen Rules," instructions for how to hug a woman wearing a hat, tips on hat-lending ("I'd lend my children before I'd lend my hat--I know my children know their way home"), hat-and-wig combinations and how to keep a hat on when the spirit moves particularly wildly. Just when you think Crowns might head in a different direction, no, they go right back to the hat rack.
Almost all is forgiven in the rousing finale, which recreates a worship service complete with sermon. All that's missing are the collection plates (hey, DTC, fundraising opportunity?). As the ladies ascend a heavenly staircase (on a lovely set by Dallas designer Randel Wright), their voices rocket off the rafters. Spirits are lifted. Love is all around. Hats off and amen to that.