Fifty Shades of Gridiron

Pokes fun at news and newsmakers


Denise Neil chooses her words carefully as she describes the annual Gridiron show: "It's always kind of known for its it can be a little risque."

Neil, a columnist for the Wichita Eagle who helps produce the show, needn't worry about offending anyone. The show's often outrageous approach to poking fun at news and the people who make it is a big part of why it's a been a hit with audiences for more than 40 years.

"Fifty Shades of Gridiron," as this year's show is titled, runs April 11-13 at the Orpheum Theatre.

Gridiron is staged each year by the Kansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Proceeds fund scholarships for journalism students at Wichita State, Newman, Friends and other schools in Kansas.

All sorts of media types take part in the production, starting with the writers and ending with the folks who sing, act and dance.

As this story was going to press, even Neil didn't know much about what would be in the show, beyond a skit that involves "Downton Abbey," Haysville (a frequent butt of Gridiron jokes) and local humorist Bucky Walters.

"Pretty much anything that happened in the news locally or nationally is fair game," Neil said. But part of what makes Gridiron are the characters and bits that occur every year, including:

Bonnie Bing Although mostly retired from the Eagle, she'll be back to reprise her role as the sweetly malicious "Fairy Tale Princess."

Ted Woodward The show's main song and dance man could probably do it full time if he ever tires of his radio gig.

Walters No Gridiron is complete if he doesn't appear in at least one dress.

Mystery celebrity guests Each night features a different one. They've ranged from mayors to billionaires.

This year's cast also includes veteran Gridironers Denice Bruce, Teresa Veazey, Tommy Castor and "a few new faces," Neil said.

Some actual show business veterans help give the production a professional touch, including Director Kathy Page Hauptman, Musical Director Tim Raymond and Choreographer Stan Rogers.

"It promises to be irreverent to all sacred cows and spare no public from the ridicule they have worked so hard to earn," Bruce said.

More info

Fifty Shades of Gridiron

The Orpheum at 8 p.m. April 11, 12 and 13
Tickets are $21.50 to $31.50
available at
by calling 316-755-SEAT or at
Select-A-Seat outlets.
Doors open at 7 p.m.
Cash bar and concessions are available.

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