How does Gridiron celebrate turning 50?
With more side-splitting news spoofs, satirical skits and musical numbers, of course — and a Friday night "Curtain Call" party that will raise more money for journalism scholarships.
The annual parody put on by the Kansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists runs April 5-7 at the Orpheum Theatre, 200 N. Broadway.
Members of local media outlets write, produce and perform the "Saturday Night Live"-style show, which pokes fun at news events happening in Wichita and around the world. This year's show — "50 Years of Factual Fake News" — includes some of the most beloved numbers from previous years in addition to new material. Performers include Bucky Walters, Sierra Scott, Bonnie Bing, Bill Roy, Ted Woodward and Suzanne Tobias.
Director Rick Bumgardner, who has about 30 years of experience working with professional singers and actors, said Gridiron's cast of journalists makes his job and the show an enjoyable experience.
“Their non-theater-skilled personalities make it great for me to be able to mold and shape the characters that I want to see on the stage,” Bumgardner said. “It’s actually easier than with actors, and it’s a lot of fun because of that kind of exuberance that they bring to the show.”
Serving as vocal director for the 50th anniversary show is Wichita native Karla Burns, the Tony Award-nominated actress and mezzo-soprano, who said she also has loved working with members of the media.
"Normally I'm either in a private teaching situation or . . . working with people that do it professionally. These people are sort of in the middle," Burns said.
"I've had to take that and figure out how to communicate with them the best way so we are able to communicate with the audience," she said. "That's what this is about — the communication. I've tried to remind them that they are journalists and that the words are what matters."
The show, which can get a little raunchy at times, is great fun for a great cause, said Molly McMillin, president of the Kansas chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Over the past 49 years, the show has awarded more than $240,000 to journalism students throughout the state.
"Gridiron is a lot of fun and a long tradition — and its purpose is an important one," McMillin said.
A new addition to the Gridiron experience this year is the "Randy Brown Curtain Call" after-party that will happen on the Orpheum stage immediately following the Friday performance.
The additional fundraiser, named for the late Wichita Eagle journalist and Gridiron master of ceremonies, costs $50 and will include heavy hor d'oeuvres, drinks, a silent auction, music by Pop & The Boys and fun with cast members.
The show is 8 p.m. April 5-7 at the Orpheum. Doors open at 7 p.m. Appetizers and a cash bar will be available all three nights.
Tickets are $26 to $29 April 5, and $35 to $38 April 6-7. Students with a high school or college ID can pay $10 at the door. A combo ticket for the show and Randy Brown Curtain Call on April 6 is $75. They are available at Select-A-Seat outlets or at www.selectaseat.com. For more information, go to www.wichitagridiron.com.