It's 5 p.m. opening night, and sophomore Michael Burrell is already hard at work, preparing for the role of Danny Zuko, the lead role in "Grease," the first production put on at the River Campus this school year by the SEMO Department of Theatre and Dance.
"You have to show up early for hair, makeup and costumes," he said. "You're also mentally preparing yourself to go on stage."
Though this is Burrell's first leading role as an actor, he said he isn't nervous.
Burrell said "Grease" is one of his favorite movies. "As a kid, I wore out my VHS tape of it."
Stefanie Kluba, a senior from O'Fallon, Mo., who is playing the female lead, Sandy, confirms that she also has no nerves about her performance. "I've worked really hard so I have no reason to be nervous," she said.
Director Kenneth L. Stilson said the production borrows elements from the movie, the 1971 pre-Broadway script, and the 1993 London revival.
"I couldn't be happier with the cast," Stilson said. "We have so much talent here. It amazes me."
The opening night attendance was nearly 600, filling up most of the 941 seats in the Bedell Performance Hall. People of all ages and ranging from fans of the movie, friends and family of the cast, to musical theater enthusiasts attended opening night.
Stilson said the pre-sale tickets for the event alone were enough to make "Grease" the second-highest-selling production at the River Campus. "We anticipate over 3,500 attendees," he said. "The only production that drew more people in was ‘Big River,' which was the inaugural production. It sold 4,000 tickets."
Diana McMahon came all the way from St. Louis for "Grease" to support her son, Zak, who plays Doody. "It's hard to believe that it's a college performance," she said. "I think they're having a lot of fun. There is a lot of personality in their version."
McMahon said she has bought tickets for every night of the performance. "I love musicals, and it helps that my son is in it," she said. "I'm coming to support him."
Josh Volkerding, a senior from Jackson High School and fan of the movie "Grease" said the local production is a great time.
"Some of the songs I haven't heard," he said, "so in some ways it's a new experience."
Shirley Essner of Benton, Mo., said she feels the students did justice to the musical.
"They're doing an awesome job," she said. "I would come back to see it again."
"Grease" contains some mature themes that may not be suitable for a younger audience. There are warnings in the lobby so attendees know what's in store.
Kluba said the atmosphere of the cast and crew is equal to that of a professional production.
"This is a pre-professional training ground, so we wouldn't be performing this play if we weren't capable," she said. "Some people have told us they can't tell a difference between us and the touring shows that come through the area."
The show plays until Sunday, with tickets set at $17 for the mezzanine and upper balcony. All other seats are $20.
518 S. Fountain St., Cape Girardeau, MO, 63701