By ALEC CLAYTON
This summer Harlequin Productions celebrates 30 years of music by Bruce Whitney, who started as a rock musician and has arranged, conducted and performed music for the company since its beginning. “As of August this year,” says Harlequin cofounder and Bruce’s sister-in-law, Linda Whitney, “Bruce will have been composing music for theater for 30 years, and I think that’s worth a celebration. … Before all this began, he had been a rock ’n’ roll musician, a skilled keyboard player and guitarist, and had earned degrees from both MIT and [The Evergreen State College]. He is a software developer who can also stretch time to allow for his love of music.”
The first show for which he composed music was Macbeth in 1988. Since then he’s written the music for A Rock ’n’ Roll Twelfth Night and arranged the music for nine summer rock shows and many Stardust Christmas shows at Harlequin.
This summer’s musical extravaganza includes dancers, magic, singers and aerial artists performing Whitney’s songs. The eight-member orchestra includes many of the band members theater patrons have seen in previous Harlequin shows: David Broyles on guitar; Andy Garness on drums; Karen Gheorghiu, horns and percussion; Kate Hales, fill-in flautist; Rick Jarvela on bass; David Lane, keyboard;. Kathleen Scarborough, violin and viola; Nine Wolff, flute and keyboards and of course Bruce on guitar and piano. Lead singers will be Bruce Haasl, Mari Nelson, Christie Oldright and Amy Shephard. They’ll be joined by the cirque troupe of Christian and Maggie Doyle, Elex Hill, Eric Sanford and Marlo Winter.
Bruce Whitney says, “I grew up loving to play music, mostly piano and clarinet. Then in high school I started playing guitar, completely hooked on the rock and folk music of the ’60s.” He played bass and piano with a local Grateful Dead cover band, The No Toy Boys. In the early ’80s, his brother Scot got him to write and record music for the short, educational films he was creating at the time. Musical direction came later when Bruce took on Harlequin’s long-running Stardust series.
“When Linda approached me last year about doing a retrospective of my music,” he adds, “I was surprised and flattered. Building the show has been an exhilarating and daunting experience, creating scores from hours of recorded music for live performance. And Linda has, as usual, done a fantastic job of using the music to frame a wonderful visual and aural experience.”
Magical Mystery Midsummer Musical
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday,
2 p.m. Sunday, June 21 – July 21
Harlequin Productions’ State Theater,
202 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia