Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure | Stage review

  • © Todd Rosenberg Photography

    Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Second Company performs Harold and the Purple Crayon.

  • © Todd Rosenberg Photography

    Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Second Company performs Harold and the Purple Crayon.

  • © Todd Rosenberg Photography

    Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Second Company performs Harold and the Purple Crayon.

  • © Todd Rosenberg Photography

    Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Second Company performs Harold and the Purple Crayon.

  • Todd Rosenberg

    Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Second Company performs Harold and the Purple Crayon.

  • Todd Rosenberg

    Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Second Company performs Harold and the Purple Crayon.

  • Todd Rosenberg

    Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Second Company performs Harold and the Purple Crayon.

  • Todd Rosenberg

    Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Second Company performs Harold and the Purple Crayon.

  • Todd Rosenberg

    Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Second Company performs Harold and the Purple Crayon.

© Todd Rosenberg Photography

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Second Company performs Harold and the Purple Crayon.


Kids jump, run and boogie all the time, and they love to watch others move, too. So why don’t we expose them to artistic movement (what we all call dance) at an earlier age? It seems as natural a fit as Baby Loves Disco or, you know, toddler capoeira. 

Every kid’s introduction to dance should be as natural and easy as the revival of this show, which sold out in 2010. Saturday’s performance of Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure at the Harris Theater, with music by Andrew Bird and choreography by Terence Marling and Robyn Mineko Williams, was both artful and kid-friendly, yet still a little bit unpasteurized. That’s a positive. Crockett Johnson’s well-worn children’s book offered the six dancers from Hubbard Street 2 rich source material, open-ended imagined spaces for creating on the stage, and also a dance-friendly plot arc: Preparation, take-off, flight, landing, with a little confusion in there, too.

At certain points, I lost the plot, but I don’t think my son ever did. At one point, as Harold finds himself lost in the city, he wordlessly communicates to a police officer using small karate-chop-like “directions” that leave the cop confused, my young one leaned over and explained, “He doesn't understand.” Thanks, guy.

Never pandering, but always on a young person’s level, Harold’s dance adventure really clicked with the hundreds of kids in the theater. Body movement is a language we easily pick up on (though Chomsky might disagree). Several bits in the show required audience involvement, and they were executed smoothly. My not-yet-four-year-old (who had executed his own modern dance moves to Maroon 5 a few hours earlier) had no problem joining in a clap-stomp or air-drawing (my favorite chapter in the performance) with Harold and his friends.

Bird’s music never stepped forward to grab attention. Unlike the HBO series music by Van Dyke Parks, it never had me singing or humming along blissfully, but neither did it stoop to kid-show clichés. Hubbard 2’s Harold is a little ray of light in a storm of kiddie-culture offerings, well worth the jaunt downtown. Everyone will love it.


One more performance of Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure unfurls at the Harris Theater today (December 4) at 2pm. Tickets are $15.


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)

laura.baginski@timeout.com