From the opening song of the First Act — “Gridiron’s Here” — to the powerful closing tune “Oh Happy Day” (adapted from the soulful original), the 2013 edition of The Oklahoma City Gridiron Show is well-acted, well-sung, upbeat and funny. This year’s Boffo performance is a fine addition to the storied series of annual parodies dating to 1928.
Dialogue is occasionally edgy for this retrospective of national, state and local politics in the year gone by. Our all-Republican D.C. delegation launches the Federal Act with a lament about gridlock, performed by the Gridiron Club’s “old guys” – retired reporters Jim Palmer, Joe Mays, John Greiner, Jon Denton, Bob Hale, Darrell Morrow and (the kid) Robert Lange.
In a faux school setting, Principal Dana Meister, Vice Principal Barry Jon and teacher “The Eggman” “enlighten” clueless students, as portrayed by Toney Antonelli, Erin Boeckmann, Jaclyn Cosgrove, Sue Hale, Sue Perry, Janie Morrow, Cindy Reich, Terry Runnels, Vien Schmezenbach, Jackie Short and Ellie Sutter (don’t call her “the old gal”) along with Mssrs. Morrow, Palmer, Denton, Greiner, and Hale.
More comedy comes from four NFL replacement referees. Even that is exceeded when a group of Olympic synchronized swimmers take the stage. You will laugh – perhaps weep – as the lovely voices of Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli accompany the fluid movements of Cosgrove, Mays, B. Hale, Judy Murphy, Carol Cole-Frowe and Robert Burch.
Runnels sings like a Broadway star, and has fine cameos as an ACLU lawyer telling us what is permitted, and pleading for government openness and transparency. Jackie Short is a perky student who spies on an absent teacher, then leads a send-up of Superintendent Janet Barresi in Act II.
As Mitt Romney, Bob Hale is “defended” and then abandoned by fellow Republican presidential hopefuls Gingrich, Cain, Perry, Santorum and Bachmann. Bart Vleugels returns as President Obama, with Ms. Short assuming the part of First Lady Michelle.
The Eggman is a key player, distilling Oklahoma’s red-state reality. Barry Jon assists with story narration, and portrays Mayor Mick Cornett singing local praises.
Meister shines in a reprise of her “ED-MOND” send-up. Murphy is back as Nancy Pelosi, paired with Antonelli (Harry Reid) in a great duet.
As Mitt Romney, Bob Hale is first “defended” and then abandoned by fellow Republican hopefuls Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann. Billie Rodely reprises her edgy interpretation of Hilary Clinton, and pulls double duty as this year’s show director.
Bart Vleugels shines as President Barack Obama, with Ms. Short assuming the part of First Lady Michelle. Bart Vleugels shines as President Barack Obama, with Ms. Short assuming the part of First Lady Michelle. Lange plays Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who shocks conservatives but delights liberals with his switch on the health care law.
Pat McGuigan pops on and off state, having fun with a more-or-less accurate transcript of Vice President Joe Biden’s memorable gaffes (Runnels is witty as a harried Biden aide without a word of dialogue); then Mac is back as state Sen. Harry Coates to Boeckmann’s Michelle Ooten, lamenting state Capitol conditions.
OKC loves the Thunder, but Runnels and Antonelli explain in a duet, “It’s a business, after all.” Perry salutes the little General (Rita Aragon) in a patriotic tribute, setting the stage for Reich, as Mary Fallin, to sing about the chief executive’s frequent flying – and the ladies’ memorable dance “open meetings style.” B. Hale and the “Hobby Lobby Chorus” set the stage for State of the State, and the show closer.
The show title catches the wit and insight of the authors – all local journalists or their associates — “More Obama Drama – or, Oklahoma is well-red.” Larry Pierce and the Gridiron Band (Norm Cochran, Jim Rachel, Danny Vaughn and Cleave Warren) perform in-key and on-time, giving this all-amateur show a professional flair.
Proceeds from the annual Gridiron Show support scholarships for students studying journalism. The Gridiron Club runs the show, and the Gridiron Foundation gets the cash after bills are paid. The club, in existence since 1928, has raised and dispersed several hundred thousand dollars over the past several decades.
Advanced tickets are available at www.OKCGridiron.org, or from Ticketstorm (http://www.ticketstorm.com/search.php?search=okc+gridiron&login2=GO). While ticket sales are brisk, you can take a shot at buying at the door, $35.50 each.
This year’s performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Wed., Feb. 27, Fri., March 1 and Sat., March 2. Doors open at 7 p.m. Gridiron performs at Lyric on the Plaza (1727 N.W. 16).
Note: “Publius” is a traditional pseudonym in journalism, including in “The Federalist Papers” of the late 1780s, when American Founding Fathers John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison used the penname in newspaper commentaries, making their case for ratification of the U.S. Constitution.