“Harold and the Purple Crayon” — S.D. Crockett’s tale onstage at Chicago Children’s Theater
There is, at present, a rather remarkable piece of literary adaptation onstage in Chicago. S.D. Crockett’s timeless tale of childhood imagination, “Harold and the Purple Crayon” is being presented in a colorful, classy, and always fun musical production by the good people at Chicago Children’s Theatre.
And translating the Harold books to the stage couldn’t have been easy. There’s really only ever one substantial character – Harold himself – and he draws all of his surroundings with the infamous purple crayon, which can’t make set design easy. In this clever production, directed by Sean Graney, the sweet-faced and strong-voiced Nate Lewellyn plays the titular hero. He’s assisted by two additional talented actor/singers – Alex Goodrich and Bethany Thomas – who play “Storytellers,” which roughly translates to “every other role you could imagine” – from parents to dragons to a moose and porcupine to a (quite ingenious) puffer fish. The set, smartly, is white, and projections and puppets and other bits of theatrical magic make the purple crayon lines appear and disappear at Harold’s whim.
Also, it’s a musical — and the score is terrific. I love a good musical.
I attended the opening night performance of this show in CCT’s new performance space at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, and the crowd was packed with parents and children. Proving themselves aware of their target audience, the folks at CCT were smart — the programs double as coloring/activity books, and everyone who attends gets a purple crayon for coloring all over the paper-covered walls.
This show reminded me of the time I discovered Harold in the library at my elementary school, and how great the book is. (There are a few other books in the series, too, but my heart belongs to the original.)
If you have small children in your life, this show is a charmer and one they’d definitely enjoy. Also, it’s about 50 minutes long,just right for little attention spans. (Hint: Check Goldstar.com for a chance at finding half-price tickets.)