This Musical World Premiere Brings Black Girl Magic to the Stage

‘Zuri’s Crown’ runs April 27-29 at the Wilson Theater at Vogel Hall.

Zuri’s Crown, a new musical premiering today through World Premiere Wisconsin, is putting a new spin on a classic tale. Written by Cynthia Cobb, Parrish Collier, Don E. Pannell and Sheri Williams Pannell, Zuri’s Crown is an original musical that celebrates “Black hair and the transformative power of self love.” 

The story follows Zuri, a 19-year old Black woman who undergoes a journey of self-discovery as she faces adversaries and situations that work to dim her shine. The musical is modeled from the Rapunzel fairytale, a classic adventure where hair plays a major role in the evolution of the titular character. 

“Zuri is a very inquisitive and respectful, but also ambitious young woman,” says Camara Stampley, who plays the lead of the musical. “She is on this really grand journey of self-discovery and trying to find out what makes her beautiful, what makes her unique and what makes her special, all while having that go up against what the world says is beautiful.”

Zuri’s Crown; Photo courtesy of Black Arts MKE



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The play is put on by Bronzeville Arts Ensemble, the  professional theater company in residence at Black Arts MKE. Black Arts MKE works with dozens of performing artists of color to expand African American arts and culture in the city of Milwaukee. 

“We wrote the musical that we always wanted to see. This is an uplifting and joyous Black girl magic fairytale with a little Milwaukee flavor,” said Sheri Williams Pannell, co-writer and director of the play. “We’ve created a fun, magical world; folks are going to be singing and dancing along to the songs, but at its core is a vital message for our entire community. We hope it helps people on their self-love journey.”

Zuri’s journey of self-love requires her to push against the negative messaging she receives from the world around her, and forge her own path forward. “We’re watching her reconcile that difference,” says Stampley. “She goes through a journey of figuring out do I have to change myself to be acceptable? Or am I beautiful as I am?

Zuri’s Crown; Photo courtesy of Black Arts MKE

For the young girls and women in the audience, Stampley says she hopes the show affirms that they are beautiful and unique – what they have is enough, who they are is enough. She says it’s a challenge that many women face, especially Black women and other women of color whose looks (especially hair) has been scrutinized through the lens of the Euro-centric beauty standard.

“The story is asking the audience to just take a step back and accept who you are naturally,” says Stampley. “Black hair is so versatile – I can straighten my hair, I can wear it in a million different colors, however I choose to show up, it is enough. It’s enough, and it’s still beautiful. And while I think that resonates a little bit differently for young Black girls, that’s something that everyone should walk away with.” 

Zuri’s Crown; Photo courtesy of Black Arts MKE

Zuri’s Crown opens tonight (April 27) and runs through Saturday at the Wilson Theater at Vogel Hall (929 N. Water St.). Tonight is community preview night. Tickets are $28.50 for adults and $10 for 18 and under. The show runs through April 29. 

“With Black Arts MKE, so much of their message is to make sure that theater is equitable and accessible,” says Stampley. “If you’re interested in the show, and have never been to the theater or aren’t aware of theater etiquette and things like that, this show is for you. Real theater is for everybody. If you wanna dance, dance. If you wanna clap, clap. If you wanna sing along, please, by all means. There are no hindrances to what you want to experience. All this is for the community.”