Starlight Children’s Theatre Co. presents ‘Iolanthe’
By Zak Hansen
Las Cruces Bulletin
Opening Friday, July 10, Las Cruces’ own Starlight Children’s Theatre Company will present six performances of the beloved Gilbert and Sullivan musical comedy “Iolanthe, or The Peer and the Peri,” to further its mission: to educate children in a safe, secure environment while cultivating literacy, a love of theatre and an understanding of history, geography, culture and community.
In “Iolanthe,” Strephon, a lowly shepherd and half-fairy, falls deeply in love with the beautiful shepherdess Phyllis, who remains held close by her guardian, the Lord Chancellor, who sighs at her feet along with his fellow members of the British Parliament — his “Peers.”
To complicate matters, Phyllis knows not of her beloved’s magical background — the son of the fairy, “or Peri,” Iolanthe and a mortal man, a love for which she was banished — and when she sees him with a seemingly younger woman, actually Iolanthe, she agrees to marry the highest ranking Peer.
An escalating battle ensues between peers and peris that brings these wily sprites all the way to the halls of Parliament, where they turn the legal system on its ear — but also risk breaking fairy law, which holds “it is death for a fairy to marry a mortal,” when the female fairies come into contact with the handsome, if foolish, parliamentary men.
Rife with the social commentary and satire that made their work so lasting, Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Iolanthe” sparkles with song and memorable music, making it perfect for Starlight’s annual summer production.
According to director Ginger Scarbrough Andersen, “’Iolanthe’ is pure fun! The beauty of the fairies, contrasted with their mischievous nature, is delightful, and the clash of immortal fairies with mortal men is delicious.
“’Iolanthe’ is a show for all generations. It is true to the Gilbert and Sullivan trademark of twisted plots intertwined with sparkling music. It’s a romp in Fairyland that you won’t want to miss.”
More than just entertaining local audiences, though, Starlight is very much invested in helping its young cast members — between the ages of 9 and 18 — learn and grow through reading, rehearsal and performance. To that end, pieces are chosen to both entertain and challenge, and every cast member is assured at least one speaking line in every production.
Debra Darmata, whose son, Jacob, has been performing with the troupe since he was 12 years old in 2008, said, “What started as a group of parents trying to keep their kids busy and enriched over the summer months has turned into a major musical theatre production company for children and adolescents in Las Cruces.”
SCT is held in a “summer camp” style, with children auditioning in April, rehearsing mid-June and, by early July, “a mere four weeks later, an outstanding performance is delivered,” Darmata said.
“Everything is extraordinary, from the acting, vocals, costumes and sets. Most of this is accomplished through parent and community volunteerism –— and the talents and dedication of Ginger and her staff.
“Starlight Children’s Theatre is by far one of the best things that our son has ever been involved in. Ginger is an amazingly gifted and giving person who through the years has provided our child and many, many other children in this community with an amazing opportunity. It has helped Jacob to become a talented actor and vocalist but more importantly increased his sense of worth, provided him with a passion for the performing arts, and provided him direction regarding a potential career path.” Performances of “Iolanthe, or The Peer and the Peri” are 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, July 10-11 and 17-18, along with a 1 p.m. matinee Saturday, July 11, and special children’s matinee at 10:30 a.m. Friday July 17. Tickets are $7 at the door and at Spirit Winds, 2600 Locust St., and $8.50 at www.holdmyticket. com. For more information, call 642-2980, 505-795-8470 or visit http:// starlightchildrenstheatre.org.
Zak Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.