You’ve probably noticed by now that The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon is a series of short episodes, each of which is about ten minutes long, and each of which corresponds to one of Crockett Johnson’s books. Part 1 (in my nomenclature) is the original first book, Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955); Part 2 was drawn from Harold’s Trip to the Sky (1957), and Part 3 is based on Harold’s Circus, published in 1959. The creative team at Enchantment Theatre Company – director Leslie Reidel and founders Jennifer and Landis Smith – found a way to link these short books together in a sort of variety show, and the next episode they included is one of my favorites – Harold’s ABC, published in 1963.
The interplay of movement, props, magic, video and music is particularly intricate and whimsical in this section of The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon. As Harold draws each letter with his purple crayon, an object appears with that letter (A is apple, B is book, and so on) and Harold and the objects interact in clever and surprising ways – for instance the Cat and Dog are animated figures that get into a fight once they appear on the screen.
The music for this section is built around a simple, playful theme which has a bitonal flavor. In its bouncy pop rhythm, the main theme for the ABC section shows how much my work on this project was inspired by the jazz compositions of Vince Guaraldi, whose score for “A Charlie Brown Christmas” became a classic during my lifetime. The appearance of the Little Girl is accompanied by a jaunty tune with a soft-shoe rhythm; the interplay of the two lead instruments (flute and trumpet at first, then trumpet and sax) is meant to evoke the interplay of the two characters. Later, the “Walk in the Moonlight” theme, introduced in part 1, is heard, since M is for Moon, and the Pie Dance theme is heard when the appearance of the letter P is followed by a piece of pie. R, S and T are three clowns whose antics are accompanied by a zany Bulgarian-style transformation of the ABC theme, and when Harold gets them to stand in the order S – T – R, he draws an A which makes the word “STAR” and the screen fills with stars. Throughout this section, there is a quality of free-association that I find delightfully creative. I hope today’s musical excerpt conveys some of that creative spirit. Perhaps it will inspire you to come and see Harold at the Merriam Theater on April 12!