Arts & Culture

Harlequin goes wild with 'Rocky Horror'

Harlequin Productions this season offers two Northwest premieres and Shakespeare's seldom-produced "Antony and Cleopatra."

But the show that Scot Whitney, who runs Harlequin with his wife, Linda, could not stop talking about is one that just about everyone has heard of: "The Rocky Horror Show."

"Rocky Horror" (June 5-July 5) will feature Steven Taylor, who has been working in "The Lion King" on Broadway and on tour, as Dr. Frank-n-furter. Taylor appeared at both the State Theater and Capital Playhouse while living in Seattle, before moving to New York to understudy Mufasa.

"We wanted to get Steven back here," Whitney said, "so we had to come up with something that he couldn't turn down - something wild."

It doesn't get much wilder than Frank-n-furter, the transvestite from Transylvania played by Tim Curry in the 1975 cult classic film. (It was a British stage show first.)

"When I called him and asked him about playing that role, he just laughed and laughed and laughed," Whitney said. "He said, 'I can honestly say that is one role I have never even considered playing.' "

And at well over 6 feet tall, the handsome, charming, African-

American actor is not the conventional choice for the part. "It ain't going to be the movie," Whitney said.

Whitney also is particularly excited about the Northwest premieres the theater company will present in its seven-play season, which always begins with its holiday Stardust production.

The first premiere is "Under a Mantle of Stars," by Manuel Puig (Jan. 17-Feb. 9), the author of "Kiss of the Spider Woman." Although it was written in 1983, the play has rarely been produced in the United States.

"I stumbled on it by accident," Whitney said. "From the first page, I thought, 'Wow, what is this? This is fantastic.' "

The second is "Shining City," by Conor McPherson (April 24-May 17), a drama about a middle-aged man who seeks therapy from a former priest.

The other big news is happening off stage: Harlequin Productions has been focusing on raising money to improve its State Theater.

Currently, administrative offices are going into the theater space, and the company has received a $150,000 matching funds grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. That money will be used to replace the State Theater's roof.

"They really do a lot of digging and scrutinizing, and other granting organizations know how much they do," Whitney said. "So getting a Murdock grant is like getting a gold star on your project. We've raised about $40,000 to match that so far."