Tupelo Community Theatre’s “Crowns” is a musical, but it may go further than that.
“I just want it to be a blessing to people,” said Zell Long, who portrays Mother Shaw.
The story starts with a tragedy: A teenager named Yolanda loses her brother after a shooting in New York City.
She’s sent to live with Mother Shaw in South Carolina, where she encounters a church full of women who’ve risen above their own hardships.
“Everybody tries to help Yolanda,” said Rachel Macklin, who plays the teenager. “They’re all telling stories to her. Through that, she opens up. She learns to deal with her grief.”
Not so fast. Grief is a process, and Yolanda isn’t sure she’s ready to start wearing fancy hats, the crowns in the title, that the other women wear to church.
And maybe she doesn’t have what it takes to make such a bold fashion statement. Let Velma, played by Nicole Cherry, explain:
“A lot of women can plop a hat on their head, but they can’t carry it off unless they have the attitude to go with it. That’s what I call ‘hattitude.’ Hattitude is something you have to possess in order to wear a hat well.”
Sing in praise
As characters tell Yolanda about their lives, others characters act out the stories. Yolanda and the audiences also will absorb lessons in other ways.
“I guess my favorite part is the singing,” Long said. “I love to sing. I do it for the glory of God.”
Gospel music will bounce off the Lyric Theatre’s walls. Songs include “Mary Don’t You Weep,” “Hem of His Garment,” “In the Mornin’,” “None but the Righteous” and many more.
“Every rehearsal is like going to a church service,” said Lynn Nelson, director. “They sing before rehearsal, they sing after rehearsal, they sing on the way home, and they sing all through the show.”
“Crowns” features an all African-American cast. There are six women and one man, Lee Humphrey, who plays the pastor.
Tonya Smith, assistant director for the musical, knew Humphrey from church and asked him to tryout.
“I’m the clown of my church, so I decided I should try it. Everybody tells me I should be on stage,” Humphrey said. “It’s been a fun experience. It truly has. I’m just glad to be part of it.”
Anyone else who wants to be a part of the “Crowns” experience is welcome to reserve a seat at the Lyric Theatre.
“It’s got funny parts. It’s got sad parts,” Humphrey said. “If you miss it, you’re going to miss a treat. That’s what I’d say: If you miss it, you’re going to miss a treat.”
Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: Tupelo Community Theatre’s “Crowns”
– When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday
– Where: Lyric Theatre, Tupelo
– Tickets: $20/adults, $10/students
– Info: (662) 844-1935
– Cast: Zell Long (Mother Shaw), Rachel Macklin (Yolanda), Debra Harper (Mabel), Nicole Cherry (Velma), Symone Carr (Wanda), Kathryn Johnson (Jeannette), Lee Humphrey (The Man)
– Crew: Lynn Nelson (director), Tonya Smith (assistant director), Carolyn Evans (production assistant), Sheryl “Shay” Zinn (music director), Bronwyn Teague (lighting and sound design), Marianna Coffey (set design)
M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal