Capitol Entertainment

The Capitol Steps

At the Lobero Theatre, Wednesday, May 3.

Reviewed by Karen Leigh

Twenty-five years ago, a group of disillusioned Washington
congressional staffers decided they needed a new way to vent their
mounting political frustration. From this came the Capitol Steps, a
group of singing, satirizing, former aides. In the years since
1981, the Steps’ rotating cast has become a favorite on the D.C.
social circuit and recorded six albums of biting lyrical
prose — all set to the sounds of great 20th-century standards. This
past week, its touring company delighted local audiences at the
Lobero Theatre.

Because the Steps’ repertoire is frequently updated to keep up
with the times, Santa Barbarans heard two hours’ worth of material
largely mocking Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration, and
terrorists. The former Iraqi dictator, they sang, is “still crazy
after all these years.” Actors playing Donald Rumsfeld and Dubya
collaborated on the duet “If I Only Had a Plan [in Iraq],” to the
tune of “If I Only Had a Brain” from The Wizard of Oz. The Sound of
Music standard “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” was
rescored as “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Korea?” and trilled by
Kim Jong Il in full mad-scientist regalia.

Showcasing the Steps’ depth of political knowledge, non-partisan
issues were dealt blows. A children’s story, “The House That Jack
Bribed,” mocked disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. A witty
sing-along ad for the Iraq Tourism Board repositioned “On the Sunny
Side of the Street” as “The Sunni Side of Tikrit,” capped by — all
together now — “what happens in Fallujah, stays in Fallujah.”

It’s difficult to pick the evening’s funniest moment. Was it the
four elderly Supreme Court justices, hunched, on their knees, and
chanting “Keep us alive! Keep us alive!” to the tune of “Stayin’
Alive,” from Saturday Night Fever? Or was it former Democratic
presidential candidates Mondale, Dukakis, and Kerry praising
Hillary Clinton in “Wouldn’t It Be Hillary,” a riff on the My Fair
Lady classic “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”? I’ll go with the PBS
television spoof “GOP-BS,” in which children’s character Barney the
Purple Dinosaur got slammed by conservatives as a Democratic plot
to discredit creationism.

But perhaps the show’s greatest feat was its shameless tackling
of serious political issues. Often swept under the rug by
self-serving popular culture, issues including illegal immigration,
Arabic control of U.S. ports, and censorship were, for two glorious
hours, brought front and center. Not that a post-operation Bill
Clinton seemed to notice. “Good news for the ladies,” he winked
from the stage. “I’m operating with increased blood flow.”


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