Keeping the waters pure: Gridiron’s 2011 version takes humorous look at ‘Mary Land’

By Publius

Published 24-Feb-2011

Opening night for the Oklahoma City Gridiron went more or less according to plan, resulting in a laugh-out-loud send-up of local, state and national politicians, accompanied by damn good music and outrageously clever lyrics. 

Those song words skewer the pomposity and occasional stupidity of public figures, but also carry gentle admonitions to taxpayers and citizens to pay attention about the goings at city hall, the state Capitol and in Washington, D.C.
Early in the second act, Megan Glyckherr as Mary Fallin and Kim Mizar-Stem as Jari Askins deliver a show-stopping duet as contenders in the first all-female gubernatorial contest in state history (and, only the fourth in U.S. history). While their song questions the role of negative television advertising, it ultimately embraces joyfully the leadership roles of both women.
Attending the show’s opening night performance were many prominent state leaders, including Governor Fallin, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, House Speaker Kris Steele and Secretary of State Glenn Coffee.
The crowd seemed enthralled with the Glyckherr-Stem duo, interrupting the song twice with applause. These ladies can sing! Glyckherr works at News9, while Stem has served as leader of the club this cycle.
In the federal act, a tip of the hat to William Shakespeare comes in the form of three ladies (Carol Cole-Frowe of the Society of Professional Journalists, Oklahoman retiree Ellie Sutter and secondary educator Dana Meister) whose magical potions aim at President Barack Obama (Bart Vluegels). The latter continues as a solid asset to the show, along with his wife Cynthia Rozmaryn (a radio journalist and educator). She joins Bob Hale, another venerable show stopper, for some “delight” that leaves the audience in giggling fits. Hale also reprises as John McCain in comments on historic changes in military personnel policies.
John Greiner, retired as The Oklahoman’s Capitol reporter, is the voice of Jim Inhofe, a Mexican laborer and reliable all-round trouper. With his deep and dignified voice, Jim Palmer is again delivers messages from Mount Sinai, or thereabouts. 
Robert Burch of OETA is the “Mad Voter” (think: Mad Hatter) whose antics reinforce the title: “One Lump or Two?” KTOK’s afternoon drive show host, the Eggman, is priceless in several roles in his first turn on the Gridiron stage. A star is born, in his interpretations of perils that might face Republicans in “Mary Land.” References to The Tea Party – the political movement, not necessarily the moment in Alice – abound.
Stem returns as Tina Fey, accompanying Ashley Barcum’s Sarah Palin. Cartoonist and Gridiron veteran Robert Lange is a heartbroken racing fan lamenting demise of the State Fairgrounds speedway, and helps others in the cast skewer a controversial state question.
Some might think the Glyckherr-Stem duet is the evening’s highlight, but several other performances were notable, including Andrew Harris’ dour and witty interpretation of U.S. Rep. James Lankford. Harris, the morning traffic guy at News9, has multiple duties with a “late Brad Henry” cameo, and as state act director/ticket guru for Gridiron. 
Stem returns to lead a lively sendup of both Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi and the Oklahoma Education Association.
Jim Campbell, retired Capitol reporter for the Oklahoma Press Association, took ill early this week, and his several parts were apportioned among other cast members. Greiner delivered solidly in one of those spots, a brief cameo as longtime city employee Pat Downes. That came shortly after retired OPUBCO employee Bill Webster, his wife Elaine and stage veteran Darrel Morrow deliver a unique twist on those controversial security measures in the nation’s airports.
Of course the show touches on the scandal highlight of the year, as KOSU’s Michael Cross reprises his interpretation of a hard-right legislator facing felony charges. Joining him are Judy Murphy as Debbe Leftwich, Sue Hale as Cherokee Ballard, and Burch (pinch-hitting for Campbell) as District Attorney David Prater. Cross doubles in cameos, including as a transportation safety dude, and directed the federal act.
A debt count (venerable John Ferguson) and countess (Jackie Short) help us keep track of deficits, Barry Jon is back as Mayor Mick Cornett. Short is also unforgettable as a woman who drew worldwide fame for her scantily clad encounter with agents of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA).
There’s a hymn for folks who don’t normally have hymns – we won’t reveal the details of that (mostly) tuneful acapella send-up of cultural conflict. OETA’s Bill Perry, producer of this year’s show, leads the most unusual choir imaginable.
Journalists, both active and retired, and their associates make up the Gridiron cast, including Joe Mays (Todd Lamb), CapitolBeatOK’s own Pat McGuigan (Joe Biden) and Billie Rodely (Hillary Clinton), also of CapitolBeatOK. It’s impressive how many of these scribes and pundits can actually carry a tune and (usually) remember their lines.
Glyckherr and the cast join forces for a joyful conclusion, expressing the optimism of a new gubernatorial term
Appropriately enough, all net proceeds from the Gridiron go to a the group’s 501 c 3 foundation, which has since 1990 dispersed more than a quarter of million dollars in scholarships to aspiring journalists.
The sometimes edgy humor of Gridiron emerges from the tradition of vigorous and fearless news reporting in America, affirmed in this reflection by the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson: “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”
Elsewhere in his voluminous writings, the third president of the United States expressed himself this way: “The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”
Technical aspects of the show include deft use of the space at Lyric Plaza, the show’s “new” (second year, now) venue. And an enjoyable pre-show video nicely affirms the club’s support of Oklahoma’s open meeting laws, while giving insights into club operations.
Some tickets remain for both the Friday (Feb. 25) and Saturday (Feb. 26) performances of the Gridiron. Tickets are available online at for $30 each plus service charge, or at the door of the Lyric Plaza Theatre, 1725 N.W. 16th. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Or, you can take your chances with a walk-up ticket purchase.
Note: “Publius” is a traditional pseudonym in journalism, including in “The Federalist Papers” of the late 1780s, when Founding Fathers John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison used the pen name to make their case for the U.S. Constitution. Portions of this essay appeared originally in The City Sentinel, a weekly newspaper in Oklahoma City.