Students prepare for Threepenny Opera performance

GVL/Bo Anderson

Three Penny Opera

GVL/Bo Anderson Three Penny Opera

Shelby Pendowski

One song is all it took to get called back, be cut from or land a role in Grand Valley State University’s production of the “Threepenny Opera.” That one song was all it took for the casting crew to decide a student’s fate.

“Everyone is called to the audition on Saturday and it is pretty much all day and we all go in individually and sing one song. Sometimes they will have us sing another to hear different parts of our voice and that is pretty much it for the first day,” said Andrea Fleming, who was cast as Jenny in the production. “If they are interested in us singing more or hear us read dialogue they call us back on Sunday.”

Callbacks consisted of the returning students performing dialogue readings, monologue readings and site reading music and scenes from the show.

“Callbacks are never the end all be all,” Fleming said. “They can call you back for another part, they can not call you back at all and they can give you a whole speaking role without you being called back. And sometimes you get a callback and don’t get anything, so you don’t really know what to expect when you get a callback.”

Following callbacks the cast lists are announced and students are thrown straight into rehearsals.
During the first few rehearsals, Anthony LaJoye said the cast worked on singing together and getting to know the people who they would be spending the next few weeks with.

“Normally for the first two weeks it is really slow going because it is a lot of stop-start and remembering lines, and the director will cut you off and say, ‘I changed my mind, we are going to do this instead, so why don’t you come over here,’” LaJoye said. “And now we are into actually running the show, everyone knows their lines and everyone knows their blocking, so now it is just fine-tuning stuff.”

The cast for “Threepenny Opera” practices almost every day to prepare for opening night on Feb. 1.

“You have to prioritize because for this show we have to get off book, we have to memorize our stage blocking and where we are going and memorize our lines, and we have to know stuff pretty soon into the rehearsal period because you can work better without a book in your hand, so it is all about prioritizing,” LaJoye said. “But I can’t let up on my classes, so that means, if on the weekend there is a party, you don’t go out or if you have to skip a workout at the gym that day because you have to memorize some lines, that is what you have to do. You just have to remind yourself we are in the rehearsal for just over a month, I can give up whatever I need to for that month.”

LaJoye said the leads, or main roles, spend more time rehearsing than others, but they all have to work together through the good and bad.

“We all have days we don’t want to be there, like you are having a crappy day in class, it varies,” LaJoye said. “There are some people who are major ring leaders and they naturally have those personalities and when those people are down it definitely does put a damper on the rehearsals.

Everyone has a special relationship with somebody in the cast, whether it is the director or one of your best friends is in it with you. There is always someone you can go to and there is always someone to talk to and we just kind of help each other through.”

The production takes everyone in the cast and crew, said Robert McFletcher, who plays Mr. Peachum.

“It takes an amazing production staff and a cast and crew that is really passionate about the show and ready to put on a good product and confident in their ability to work together as a team,” McFletcher said. “It really takes the motivation of all of us coming together to put on a good show, which it will be and it is.”

To make “Threepenny Opera” the best, it takes the cast knowing their characters as well as possible, which Fleming said can take hours of research to fully prepare.

Knowing their character resonates the true meaning of the opera to the audience, McFletcher said, and getting the meaning to the audience is the most important but most difficult part of a production.

“It is one of those operas or plays or musicals that it really takes every moment to captivate the audience so they can see the minor details for the show, so they can full understand the concept and main idea of this show, so really staying true to the story, staying honest to the story and giving it the respect,” McFletcher said.

With the opening this weekend, Fleming said rehearsals have become even more difficult.

“Any show that I have been in the last week of rehearsals really drags and feels like we are not going to make it to opening night, and with every show it feels like it is one big hot mess, but once we are (on)stage it is like, ‘Wow, we put in a lot of work and we deserve this moment,’ and it just feels good that after all the research and work we put into it,” Fleming said.

Performances are Feb. 1, 2, 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 3 and Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. in the Louis Armstrong Theater.

“I am a Laker, so it is nice to have that diverse support of the student body as well as coming to see a phenomenal show, and it is cheap,” McFletcher said.

Tickets range from $6-14 and can be purchased from the Louis Armstrong box office or online through

“I think that they should come and see any performing arts production because it gives you a new perspective all the time, because we don’t do the same show all the time,” Fleming said. “…It is not, ‘Here, come hear some music,’ which is great and I think people should become more cultured with music, but there is a message that I think (audiences) will resonate with. There is a lot going on here that I think people can benefit from.”
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