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‘Three Penny Opera’ sings for the money

In the Dailey Theatre production of “Three Penny Opera," Mack the Knife, seated (Alvaro Renteria), and his gang (Cody Goss, Cole Wagner and Jake Tittl) try to set up the perfect wedding reception for Mack’s bride, Polly (Sierra Taylor). “Three Penny Opera” runs Feb. 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m., with a closing 2 p.m. matinee Feb. 19. / photo by Brittney Slater-Shew

Brian Velez
Staff Writer

The classic musical “Three Penny Opera,” with a script by Bertolt Brecht and music by Kurt Weil, has been updated and set in the modern day Los Angeles Harbor by the University of La Verne’s theater department.

The musical, originally set in Victorian London, tells the story of Macheath played by junior theater major Alvaro Renteria.

Renteria is performing this role as his senior performance.

Macheath is the biggest criminal in the city.

He becomes romantically involved with Polly Peachum, the daughter of Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum.

Peachum oversees a group of Los Angeles Harbor thieves and despises Macheath.

The musical may sound like a cliché “Romeo and Juliet” plot, about forbidden love, but the ambiance and attitude presented by the cast and crew is anything but typical.

Audiences of “Three Penny Opera” can expect a bruque and in-your-face show.

By using a raked stage, which is a slanting stage floor that provides the audience with a better perspective, this performance is not a usual University of La Verne production.

At least 50 people work on the play every time it is preformed.

Director Steven Kent has wanted to produce the musical for more than two decades, and he felt the time had come to create a production that could compete with that of Broadway.

“The main characters are whores and criminals,” Kent said.

He added that the musical is also a cynical look at society.

Aside from entertaining audiences, the objectives of the theater department include providing as much educational content as possible – not just doing the most popular plays.

By combining the theater and music departments, the performance provides a unique experience.

University director of choral activities James Calhoun described the live music that accompanies the play as spicy.

Calhoun, who is also an assistant professor of music, is the show’s musical director

Although the word opera in the title may bring to mind factors of a conservative or reserved show, “Three Penny Opera” is far from the traditional definition.

“This play is very raunchy” said Ernie Reyes, who plays Chief of Police Tiger Brown and friend of Macheath.

Being provocative is definitely an element of this play.

Some of the settings include a whorehouse and a training location for pickpockets.

Renteria said it is unfortunate that people create a perception of what the plot and content of a musical is based only on the title.

“‘Three Penny Opera’ is not full of helmets with horns and Italian singing,” Renteria said.

Students are sure to love the play and walk out of Dailey Theatre entertained by racy dialogue and settings that they may not have expected.

This production will play at Dailey Theatre with performances on Feb. 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m., and a closing 2 p.m. matinee on Feb 19.

Tickets cost $10 for general admission, $8 for seniors, faculty and staff and $5 for all students.

Brian Velez can be reached at brian.velez@laverne.edu.

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