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A CurtainUp Review
Capitol Steps: It Ain't Over 'til the First Lady Sings
By Elyse Sommer
The three aides in the late Senator Percy's office on Capitol Hill who organized a Christmas entertainment back in 1981, have parlayed that initial song and dance parody into an entertainment enterprise known as Capitol Steps. The company's rotating casts of satirists (most of whom have also toiled inside the Beltway) make hundreds of appearances (live, on TV and radio) each year, maintain a web site to keep fans abreast of their latest appearance and sell their CDs which now number in the double digits. If you feel the government is not run as efficiently as it should be, it may well be because of the witty and highly organized Steppers' defection from the theater of politics. But the government's loss is our gain, and the group has now hopped on another Washingtonian's campaign bandwagon for their third summer appearance in New York (It's also Hillary's third roasting on the satirical spit).
While Hillary Clinton's senatorial campaign gives this latest revue its title, plenty of the usual suspects appear on R. J. Matson's apt and efficient red, white and blue set (it looks almost unchanged from the one I recall from 1997) -- Bill Clinton biting his lip and with some of the gals who account for his explanation of the difference between moral and immoral ("look at the letters -- I M"); Al Gore (as inert and wooden as ever, on a hand truck wheeled by Tipper); Bob Dole, Yassir Arafat, Saddam Hussein. All are updated for new ripped-from-the-headlines funny business.
To update their spin on the absurdities of life in the political headlines, there are now also candidate Rick Lazio, George W. Bush and his dad, and Charlton Heston singing about the proposed new theme restaurant for gun enthusiasts. To ring in the Elian Gonzalez story, what else but a Janet Reno number ditty!
In many ways It Ain't Over is sharper, with some smart new lyrics for previously used show tunes like "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" from Evita ("Don't cry for my matrimony. . . I kept the power/ he kept his distance") and the use of the latest in pop culture smartly integrated into the skits; e.g. Pokemon or according to Mike Loomis, "Smokey Mon" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" with George W. Bush as a sure to fail contestant. The cast I saw, played their multiple parts to the hilt and they also sing well. Having seen some of the other listed company members, I feel safe in saying that you'll have the same experience no matter who's on.
That's not to say that the problems noted about the first two shows (linked below) aren't present here. First and foremost, this type of comic parody works best if tightly edited (as the group's corporate performances undoubtedly are) but tends to wear thin if stretched to fill out an hour and a half to give theater audiences their money's worth. This is especially true of some of the generic material, like "Scottish Gourmet" which falls as flat as a scone baked without baking powder. Fortunately, Bill Strauss is on hand to pop out and make time fly with two of his clever back talk or "Lirty Dies" -- one of which is a rib tickling sumup of administrations past, from "Dicky trick" to the "gorny hy" and ""Lick Razio"."
As the "titty walker" (he's even got me doing it!) Strauss explains, as long as you keep electing these scandal-prone, funny folks, the Capitol Steps will be there to make you laugh about it. "What's bad for our country is good news for us".
Unzipping My Doo Dah