Monday, October 15, 2012

Review of Harold and the Purple Crayon at Chicago Children's Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show, and it was called Harold and the Purple Crayon. Strangely, I had never read Harold and the Purple Crayon even though it is one of the most famous children's books ever written. But now I have. The book is about going to different places and exploring and how you can do stuff in your imagination that you can't do in real life. The play is kind of about the same things but in a different way, like the milkmen (Alex Goodrich and Bethany Thomas)were telling the little boy Harold (Nate Lewellyn) to draw this and use his imagination, but in the book he just decides to use his imagination and use it in the way that he wants. I thought the show could have been better, but I adored the costumes, puppets, and the choreography.

It is pretty difficult to do an adaptation of Harold and the Purple Crayon because of all the crazy things that happen, like quick scene changes where he is on land and is scared away from a terrible monster and two seconds later he has to be in the sea. Don Darryl Rivera was the writer and he did something that I have seen lots before in kids' shows: turning a book with almost no words into a play with lots of singing. (Auston James did the music and Rob Burgess did the lyrics.) I think they do that because younger kids like to sing along to lots of songs. Like when I was like 1, 2, and 3 I sang songs that my dad liked. Songs make a show longer and they can make you move on from what you were doing faster or slower. So this is an example in which they did not move along very fast: "I'm flying so high. There's a dragon in the sky." They were just saying two things over and over again that had to do with one thing: that there's a dragon in the sky. He was just scared and running in place. There was another song that was kind of repetitive, but it actually made the play go on faster because these aliens were trying to snatch the crayon and trying to eat it, but they all did it in different ways, which I thought made it more exciting. The song just went "Jump it! Jump it!" but the director Sean Graney and the choreographer Tommy Rapley told the actors to make up different tactics to try to get the crayon.

It could have been better if it had less singing; if it had had less singing it would have been more true to the book because there is nothing that says in the book that Harold could be singing at that moment--he is drawing and he is running and almost never has his mouth open in the whole thing. Dancing would be fine; you can do choreography with only three songs--three songs would have been perfect for this, but there were like around ten.

My favorite costume (by Alison Siple) was the porcupine because it kind of looked like armor and had spikes coming out of it. I liked how they used everyday objects. They used a bike helmet and put quills on that and I thought that was really cute and creative. I thought Harold's costume was very true to the book. I also loved the Alien costumes which I thought were really cute, and I loved their little tongues that poked out and kind of looked like socks trying to eat the purple crayon. That costume was also a puppet. I also liked the crab puppet/costume because of the little snappers that people would put their hands in and make them snap, and it made them look like they didn't have any hands, just snappers. It looked hard to move in, but Bethany Thomas made it look easy. Joanna Iwanicka did the puppets and props. One of my favorite puppets was kind of a puppet and also kind of an umbrella. It was a puffer fish that was an umbrella that when you pushed it up and made it pop out it was blown up. I thought the caterpillar eating the apple was really adorable because it had an enormous lump, which was the apple inside it, which I thought was really hilarious.

I thought the choreography was really awesome because it was good for the story to have that choreography because if it didn't have it, the songs wouldn't have as much impact on the viewer. If there was a bad song the choreography would make it seem more interesting. I liked the alien dance because they were all jumping and they were kind of hypnotizing Harold so he would do the dance and then they could eat his crayon. The moose and the porcupine I thought had a really cool dance when they were singing about the pie and how they were in love with the pie. I think that when the porcupine and the moose came on stage, I wanted to get to know those characters even more because the actors were good at playing their parts. Their dance was a lot of twirling around with the pie and basically not even noticing Harold was there. I thought the dance was funny.

People that would like this show are people that like crayons, using your imagination, and aliens. I think this show should be for ages 1 to 5 because there is nothing that would creep out younger children. I thought the script needed more work, but I thought all the designing was great. Kids younger than me might think more about the designs than the script, so the script problems might not be as much a problem for the younger kids because they are paying more attention to the puppets and the dancing.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

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