Who better to make fun of politicians and their staffs than actual Congressional staff members? That's the idea behind "Capitol Steps," a comedy troupe formed 19 years ago that finally reached Off-Broadway Feb. 5, 1997 at the John Houseman Theatre. Originally intended to close March 23, Capitol Steps extended through June of that year, due to "strong audience demand and critical reception." The troupe then "Stepped" back into the Houseman in July 1998 for "Unzippin' My Doo `Dah," which specially concentrated on President Clinton's dry cleaning woes. The company recently finished up its third visit, “It Ain’t Over `Til The First Lady Sings,” ending its summer run at the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre Sept. 2.
Now the troupe will pay a pre-election day visit to the Riverside Theatre of Vero Beach, Fl, with two performances on Nov. 6. For tickets and information call (800) 445-6745.
There are now more than 20 members of "Capitol Steps," with five performing at one time while the others are in rotation. Company members include founding members Bill Strauss and Elaina Newport (aides for Republican Senator Charles Percy), Ann Schmitt (for Republican Senator William Roth), Jamie Zemarel (for Republican Congressman, Harris Fawell), Barie Biern (for Democrat Henry Waxman), and Mike Tilford of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Eric Krebs, who produced the last OB stint, told Playbill On-Line at the time that songs worked on for the newest installment included a Hillary Clinton medley: ("Don't cry for me Giuliani..."), "Yaketty Yak -- Go Nasdaq," "Hang Down Your Head, Dear Rudy," "It Was A Very Good Year" (for Clinton's years in office) and "It Don't Mean A Thing if You Trade with Beijing." Other bits include Clinton living "Libido Loca," a one-lunged, Philip Morris spokesperson for "Smokemon" trading cards; spoonerisms by Bill Strauss and a college commencement speech by Mike Loomis. Riverside Theatre’s press release promises tunes like “Son of a Bush” and the Carly Simonesque, “You’re So Vague.”
"They write material very quickly," said Krebs. "Some of it bombs, some works. What's going on that day and what can they put in that night. It's 80 percent different material from last time, though we're tempted to go with the last edition's opening, "Circle of Lies," because it was so strong. The Clinton scandals are pretty much over at this point, so we're considering doing a rewritten version with a whole different set of images." An evening of musical comedy, Capitol Steps changes nightly to keep up with the news. The comedy troupe formed when Strauss and Newport were asked to entertain at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Christmas party. "Unable to find three wise men or a virgin for a nativity play, they decided to dig into the week's headlines and hot topics... Since then, they've been performing in Washington and around the country, satirizing the people...that once employed them." Their output includes 16 records, four released during the Clinton administration. Recordings include "Return To Center," "The Joy Of Sax," "A Whole Newt World," and "76 Bad Loans." Song parodies include "Return To Center (Viewpoint Unknown)" directed at President Clinton, and "Yasser, That's My Bibi," a duet for Yasser Arafat and Bibi Netanyahu.
--By David Lefkowitz