In the previous scenes, Sylvester has endured a long and solitary sojourn after accidentally transforming himself into a rock. Several seasons have come and gone with no solution to his dilemma in sight. As winter is followed by spring, his parents feel like they should try to get on with their lives, especially Mr. Duncan, who makes his wife a picnic and coaxes her to come for a walk. Without knowing it, they set up their picnic right alongside the rock where their son is trapped, and when Mr. Duncan discovers Sylvester’s magic pebble (unaware of its magical powers), he makes a wish that leads to an unexpected surprise – their son is changed from a rock back into a donkey! The parents can’t believe that a happy accident has restored their beloved son, but the three return home with a new awareness of how important they all are to one another.
The seasons march on for Sylvester, as winter follows autumn and his rock is covered with snow. Meanwhile, bunnies cavort in the snow until a wolf arrives and scares them off. As the winter ends, those crazy squirrels emerge from hibernation. The thematic material in this section includes another transformation of the Welcome to Oatsdale theme, now tricked out in a sort of world-music Weather Report vibe, and a reprise of the Send in the Squirrels theme along with their Funky Donkey dance music. These sort of thematic connections are what gives this work integrity as a large-scale composition for me, but they only work if you experience the work with theatrical continuity. I hear that my friends at Enchantment are contemplating another production in 2016, so eventually there’ll be a chance to do that!
Starting with the previous post, I explained how the Enchantment Theatre production of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble takes a detour from Steig’s book in its middle section, trying to dramatize the passage of the seasons and the months that Sylvester spent trapped as a large rock as a result of a magic spell gone awry. After observing a trio of squirrels and a family of pigs, Sylvester falls into a reverie and we get a “dream ballet”-style flashback to his parents’ courtship and his birth and childhood.
The first part of the ballet dramatizes the courtship of the Duncans, and the music builds at the end as the stork (!) brings their baby, Sylvester. The second part of the Dream Ballet, in which the parents spend happy days watching their baby grow up, is a composition called Waltz For Miles, which was posted on Day 145, my grandson’s birthday, but here it is again:
Describing his efforts to compose music for a poignant scene in the film The Sand Castle, composer Alec Wilder wrote, “Man, I wrote my sad ass off for that scene,” and that’s pretty much how I feel about the music I’ve posted today. This sequence evokes all my tender feelings about my wife and family – maybe it’ll conjur up some emotions for you too!
When we last left Mr. and Mrs. Duncan, they were grieving about the disappearance of their son Sylvester, who had (unbeknownst to them) changed himself into a rock with the help of a magic pebble.
At this point in the story, Steig tells us “night followed day and day followed night over and over again.” The creative team at Enchantment Theater Company, however, got to wondering – what was going on during all those days and nights? What would Sylvester see and think about during the long months that stretched ahead of him? The middle section of the theatrical adaptation of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is, as it turns out, much more Enchantment than Steig.
First up, for our amusement, is a trio of squirrels, two boys and a girl, collecting nuts and goofing around in the field where Sylvester’s rock is situated. This track is called “Send In The Squirrels.”
When one of the squirrels pulls out a small transistor radio, he tunes in a raucous song called “Funky Little Donkey,” and the three of them dance with comical abandon.
After the squirrels go, we see another family tableau, this one featuring three pigs on a picnic. While Mother Pig spreads out their luncheon, Father and Son play a little football, “passing the pigskin,” as it were, until Junior takes a bad fall.
The squirrels gathering nuts and the father-son football game are both signs of the season, and as the autumn chill grows deeper, Sylvester grows increasingly despondent as his thoughts drift toward memories of home – memories that will be featured in the next post!
They’ve asked the neighbors, and they’ve asked the children…
But it’s been hours now, and their son Sylvester is still missing, so Mr. and Mrs. Duncan decide its time to go to the police. In Steig’s book, the police are pigs – which makes me wonder if Steig was thinking about the derogatory slang term used to refer to the police back in the sixties, when this was written. In the Enchantment Theatre version, the police are bloodhounds, with deerstalker caps and Sherlock Holmes-style capes, and they climb over and under one another trying to pick up the scent of their quarry during “The Chase,” the second part of today’s music. The third part of the music depicts the sadness of the parents who must accept the fact that their son has disappeared, and is called “Blue Burro.”