Fight between fairies and senators

Iolanthe features a 13-instrument orchestra and a talented cast. It plays the ACT in Maple Ridge June 30

(From left) Laura Dand joins fellow cast members Cayla Lynn and Tianna Hall at a rehearsal for the Bergthorson academy’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s musical Iolanthe

(From left) Laura Dand joins fellow cast members Cayla Lynn and Tianna Hall at a rehearsal for the Bergthorson academy’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s musical Iolanthe

For Rayne Beveridge, it was all about dreaming big.

The Bergthorson Academy of Musical Arts instructor had no idea if he’d be successful, but was determined to try and assemble Maple Ridge’s first orchestra.

“I really wanted to give members of the community and my students the opportunity to do something unique and spectacular,” Beveridge says as he prepares for the orchestra debut at the ACT on Saturday.

The Bergthorson academy is partnering with the arts council to stage Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operetta Iolanthe, a topsy-turvy love story involving fairies and senators.

Conducted by Beveridge, the 13-member orchestra – featuring six violins, two cellos, two flutes, a saxophone, a clarinet, and a trumpet – will play the score live. The singers will also be accompanied by internationally renowned pianist Sergei Saratovsky.

“Just the fact that we were able to create an orchestra in Maple Ridge is pretty amazing,” says Beveridge. “We are hoping it is viable and grows much bigger and we are hoping to create a symphony.”

First performed in 1882, Iolanthe is one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s 14 musicals, and is universally regarded as one of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s most beautiful scores.

Iolanthe (eye-oh-LAN-thee), also called The Peer and the Peri, lampoons the senate and political party system.

It tells the story of Strephon, a half-fairy Arcadian shepherd who attempts to find true love with Phyllis, a woman who is ward of court to the Lord Chancellor.

Their courtship, however, sparks a war between the fairies and senators before a happy conclusion is reached.

Iolanthe is not one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most known orchestras.

“It’s not as popular as Pirates of Penzance,” says Beveridge.

“The reason I chose it is because the music really drew me in. I feel like it’s some of Arthur Sullivan’s most developed music. It stays true to Gilbert’s librettos and crazy dialogue.”

The cast of 19 includes adults and teenagers, seasoned and new performers.

Mary-Ellen Smith, who plays Earl Tolloller, will be making her stage debut.

Smith only discovered her voice a year ago after a cruise where she surprised everyone by singing karaoke. After the cruise, she enrolled in vocal lessons and was prompted to audition for Iolanthe by her teacher – Rayne Beveridge.

“It’s been overwhelming,” says Smith. “It’s been way more effort than I thought but it’s been fun.”

She’d encourage other adults to give the performing arts a try.

“It’s like that quote – life begins outside your comfort zone. I like a challenge and I like to learn something new,” she says.

“This has just been such an experience.”

• Iolanthe is produced and directed by Rayne Beveridge, Kayla Cameron and Sergei Saratovksy. It plays the Act Saturday, June 30 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets: $15 at the door, $13 in advance or 4 for $40. For tickets, visit



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