River Campus Revisits 1959 with High School Hit Musical ‘Grease’


Judith Farris to Portray ‘Teen Angel’

by News Bureau on Wednesday, Sep. 12, 2012


CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Sept. 12, 2012 — “Grease,” one of the most popular and long-running Broadway musicals of all time, will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 26-29 and at 2 p.m. Sept. 30 in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall at the Southeast Missouri State University River Campus.

The Tony Award-winning high school musical rocks with charm and sheer energy and features such hit songs as “Summer Nights,” “Beauty School Dropout” and “Greased Lightnin.’”

Highlighting the shows will be Judith Farris, artist-in-residence in musical theatre at Southeast, who has been tapped to perform the role of “Teen Angel” in the upcoming productions.

“Teen Angel is wonderful cameo star vehicle, traditionally played by a man, but it is sometimes played by a woman,” said Dr. Kenn Stilson, professor of theatre and dance and director of “Grease.” “Our production will have Teen Angel (Judith) appearing from ‘heaven’ in white sequins, complete with wings, surrounded by her heavenly pink beehive beauty shop customers. It’s going to be great fun and really add something special to this production.” 

“Grease is the word — especially when you add a celebrated opera diva into the cast,” he said.

About Judith Farris

Farris, renowned contralto artist and voice instructor, became a full-time faculty member at Southeast Missouri State University in August 2005 as an artist in residence and instructor.

She is a member of the Department of Theatre and Dance, where she teaches both theatre and musical theatre courses. She also collaborates with dance, music and theatre faculty on musical theatre productions and recitals, and has performed with the Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to faculty responsibilities, Farris teaches master classes for University students, and coaches both music theatre majors and non-singers for theatrical singing roles. To assist with student recruitment and retention, Farris gives master classes in regional high schools, and assists the chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance to establish internships in New York City and other locations where she has professional contacts.

Farris was born and raised in Cape Girardeau. She is a graduate of Cape Central High School and is a 1971 graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, where she majored in voice and earned a bachelor’s degree in music education.

Farris is the teacher of many of New York’s finest singers. She  is often called upon to assist singers who have vocal damage due to poor or faulty technique and help them renew and rebuild their voice. The students in Farris’ studio also learn to master all types of singing and are not limited by singing just classical repertoire, opera or “traditional” musical theater. Her singers master all types of singing that are commanded in the business today with ease and vocal health.

As a singer, Farris’ primary performance genre was opera. In addition to having had a successful career in Europe, she has enjoyed appearances with the Santa Fe Opera, the Opera Theater of St. Louis, the Washington Opera and the Chicago Opera Theater, and performances at Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center.

Farris has appeared with many of the finest orchestras and conductors, including the St. Louis Symphony, National Symphony, the American Symphony, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. She has appeared and recorded with the New York Philharmonic and has sung as a featured soloist with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Farris has been a frequent guest with New York Musical Sacra and has sung under the baton of master conductors such as Leonard Slatkin.

About ‘Grease’

“Grease” was created in 1971 by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey and is named for the 1950s greasers.  The musical is set in 1959 and follows 10 young working-class teenagers as they explore the difficulties of cars, love, friendship and conflict.  It is Broadway’s 14th longest running show with 3,388 performances.

Here is Rydell High’s senior class of 1959: duck-tailed, hot-rodding “Burger Palace Boys” and their gum-snapping, hip-shaking “Pink Ladies” in bobby socks and pedal pushers, evoking the look and sound of the 1950s in this rollicking musical. Head greaser Danny Zuko and new girl Sandy Dumbrowski try to relive the high romance of their “Summer Nights.”  The music in this drama recalls the music of Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis Presley that became the soundtrack of a generation. 

Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance Philip Nacy said, “An eight-year run on Broadway and two subsequent revivals along with innumerable school and community productions place ‘Grease’ among the world’s most popular musicals.”

The production contains adult content.

Tickets are on Sale Now.

Tickets may be purchased by contacting the River Campus Box Office, located in the Cultural Arts Center, 518 S. Fountain St., weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by calling (573) 651-2265.  Tickets also may be purchased at RiverCampusEvents.com.