Northeast Times

Capitol Steps is walking into the Sellersville Theater

Thirty years ago, the Cap­it­ol Steps began as a group of Sen­ate staffers who set out to sat­ir­ize the very people and places that em­ployed them.

In fact, ac­cord­ing to Elaina New­port, one of the group’s three co-founders still act­ively in­volved in all the funny busi­ness today, their very name stems from the place where South Car­o­lina Con­gress­man John Jen­rette and his wife Rita chose to show their phys­ic­al af­fec­tion for each oth­er in a widely pub­li­cized 1981 scan­dal.

Al­though the Cap­it­ol Steps is based in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., most of its shows are out-of-town or for out-of-town audi­ences. The group is get­ting ready to put down its puns and par­od­ies at the Sellers­ville Theat­er on Sat­urday, Sept. 24.

“”We have a fairly large pool of per­formers,” said New­port. “Only about six per­formers are in­volved in any one show. But with some thirty songs in each show, each per­former has to be very ver­sat­ile and handle many of the char­ac­ters we are sat­ir­iz­ing.”

And the cos­tumes the per­formers wear are ex­ag­ger­ated as well, she con­tin­ued, “as are the fa­cial fea­tures. For in­stance, Nancy Pelosi doesn’t move her face at all. And Michele Bach­mann wears much too much makeup. We really en­joy the broad char­ac­ter­iz­a­tions that we do.”

And they bet­ter en­joy it. Years ago, when Cap­it­ol Steps was first formed, the group, made up of con­gres­sion­al staffers, took a huge leap of faith.

“When we did our first show, we thought they’d either ask us to stop or fire us. But here we are, years later, still go­ing strong,” said New­port. “And now, most of the politi­cians love our work and when we make fun of them. Today, I think mak­ing fun of politi­cians and polit­ics provides us the only safe jobs in the whole world.”

Most of the cast mem­bers have worked on Cap­it­ol Hill; some for Demo­crats, some for Re­pub­lic­ans. And oth­ers have worked for politi­cians who firmly straddle the fence. But no mat­ter who holds of­fice, New­port in­sisted, “there’s nev­er a short­age of ma­ter­i­al. Typ­ic­ally the Re­pub­lic­ans goof up, and then the Demo­crats goof up. That’s what we call the two-party sys­tem, and we’re here to hold them both up to the pub­lic.”

The ma­ter­i­al is up­dated con­stantly, and New­port thinks that’s one of the reas­ons the Cap­it­ol Steps re­mains so pop­u­lar. “We try to stay cur­rent, re­spond­ing to scan­dals and everything else that hap­pens in our coun­try as quickly as pos­sible,” she said.

Cur­rent ex­amples in­clude the Tea Party’s col­or­ful in­va­sion in­to the polit­ic­al spec­trum with Fun Fun Fun ’til Obama Takes Our Tea Bags Away. And the Demo­crats’ plan to de­feat the de­fi­cit with Re­turn to Spend­ers. 

“Right now we’re root­ing for a Sarah Pal­in/Michele Bach­mann tick­et with a song set to the mu­sic of Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart, but with our ver­sion it’s Don’t Go Thinkin’ You’re Smart.

The Cap­it­ol Steps has a new CD out titled Des­per­ate House­mem­bers, fea­tur­ing 22 songs, like Loon­ies of the Right set to Mu­sic of the Night, and Put Your Cans in the Hands about the Trans­port­a­tion Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion, and many more.

“I think one of the best things about this job is that when a scan­dal breaks we’re able to walk out on­stage that very night and have fun with it. The audi­ence con­nects with us right away. It’s stress­ful, but that’s the big pay­off. The audi­ence gives you points just be­cause you’ve done something new and ex­cit­ing right as it’s hap­pen­ing,” New­port said. ••

For times and tick­et in­form­a­tion, call 215-257-5808. 

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