Hilarity, Nobility and Good Medicine: Gridiron 2015 at UCO’s Mitchell Hall is Highly Recommended

The Oklahoma City Gridiron storms back on-stage in its 2015 Show, one of the most memorable ever from the band of brothers and sisters who have teased Oklahoma politicians in an annual parody since 1928.

This year’s show opened Thursday night (June 4) and continues Friday, June 5 and Saturday, June 6 at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Mitchell Hall Theater.

Alex Zabel returns as President Barack Obama. He leads a bevy of excellent singers and performers who kick off Act I (Federal issues) in the popular parody of all things political and cultural.

Judy Murphy is again Nancy Pelosi, presented as a gal who “can’t say no” to the chief executive’s plans for growing government.

Clytie Bunyan excels as Michelle Obama; Pat McGuigan is Vice President Joe Biden in a fun re-do of Patsy’s Cline’s “Crazy.”

Bill Perry returns in the part he has made his own – former President Bill Clinton.

His wife and wanna-be president, Hillary Clinton, is memorably portrayed by Billie Rodely, who is spectacular as always. 

Rodely joins Andrew Harris – who plays the unfortunate TV anchorman Brian Williams, in an exchange of outlandish tall tales about exploits that are (literally for Williams) out of this world.

Deft in supporting roles portraying presidential hopefuls are Jackie Short, Robert Burch, Terry Clark, Eggman, Andrew Harris, David Fritze, John Greiner, Bob Hale, Barry Jon, and Harry Meister, as well as Janie and Darrell Morrow.

Many of those fellows do double- or triple-duty, including as members of the state congressional delegation, in a deft song with lyrics that question Obama’s constitutional interpretations.

Clark has nice turns as both Jim Inhofe (a court jester, it seems) and “fair and balanced” Bill O’Reilly. For that matter, Clark plays the state attorney general of Nebraska in a cheerful duet with Oklahoma’s Scott Pruitt, as presented by Mr. Hale.

In Act II, where the focus is on state and local issues, Cindy Reich soars as Gov. Mary Fallin. She plays nicely off Eggman, the beloved local radio journalist, who portrays former state Rep. Joe Dorman. The pair own the stage in send-up of not only the politicians but also the country classic, “Please Release Me.”

Each of the performers excels throughout the show – Egg’s crowd favorite appeared to be a creative rewrite of a classic ballad, delivered here as “Ain’t No Football.”

Throughout the show, the “Grid Girls” – Jane Hall, Deb Goff, Dana Meister, Miss Short and often Miss Reich – provide lovely back-up to the named characters, and stand out in their own right in a variety of numbers.

Hall, one of Oklahoma City’s best actresses and singers, leads the angry OU Pride band alums in a chorus of conflict over the loss of on-field marching traditions. (Jon Denton portrays OU President David Boren, Fritze is the stage crowd’s favorite as Brian Britt).

The diminutive Goff returns to Gridiron with a firecracker performance, including one stage turn as state Rep. Sally Kern.

D. Meister excels in several parts, including as the Edmond Lady who “welcomes” the traveling Gridiron Band of performers to her town. Near the show’s end, her interpretation of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister makes it clear that the 2014 election brought to power a new politician who, like her predecessor, does not always play well with others.

Short joins forces with Murphy for a duet lamenting the woes of the commute to Norman.

Jon is superb as Mayor Mick Cornett. Burch is spot-on as businessman Bob Funk, Sr., lamenting the demise of professional hockey in our town.

Reich and the company provide a hopeful exclamation point to the show, stressing in their closer the “we are family” side of public life, rather than the divisions.

The voice of both God and Gridiron is Jim Palmer, who pops in and out in other roles, as well.

Tim Goff, who long ago was a Gridiron cast member, returns now as band director, replacing the beloved Larry Pierce, who died several months ago. Larry’s wife, Susan, attended dress rehearsal earlier this week.

Perry produced the show and popped up constantly on stage, both as the original President Clinton and as the voice of Oklahoma common sense, Mr. Voter.

The historic Mitchell Hall performance space is a worthy home for the venerable tradition of roasting (only rarely boasting about) deserving political figures.

Your humble servant – I, Publius – found a quiet corner in the balcony to view the proceedings of the opening night performance, and from there to prepare this review.

The capacious and comfortable seating area deserves your presence, dear reader.

More than ever in these troubled times, citizens of this democratic Republic should desire intelligent, if not always serious, scrutiny of the foibles, follies and frenzy which most often accompany the political process.

In the script of Gridiron – the work of veteran journalist Ellie Sutter and others — a means is found to step aside from the latest joust over votes in Congress or at N.W. 23 and Lincoln. The newest agency excesses must be pondered, but it is wise to focus on the bigger picture, which is sometimes brighter, and sometimes not.

Satire, humor, parody, stinging wit that singes but does not burn – call it what you will.

As in the days of the American founding, the leaven of humor can – mixed in, blended well, and baked just right — bring renewal to our discourse, and hope to our shared future.

It might be viewed as a kind of therapy for the soul, a mental curative or salve for the weary citizen. Or, at the least, a block against those who take themselves too seriously.

Highly recommended: The 2015 Gridiron Show, along with a heart-felt expression of gratitude to the various donors and sponsors who make possible the Oklahoma City Gridiron Club activities, and the good works of the affiliated Gridiron Foundation, including provision of scholarships to aspiring journalists.

Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m. in Mitchell Hall located within the UCO Campus.

Tickets are readily available for walk-in traffic. 

Give yourself a few extra minutes, perhaps arriving by 7 p.m. or even 7:15 p.m..

For information, visit OKCGridiron.org