Keeping them honest, keeping them laughing | VailDaily.com

Keeping them honest, keeping them laughing

Wren Wertin
Capitol Steps cast members, from left, Tracey Stephens, Jamie Zemeral, Michael Carruthers and Ann Johnson dicker amongst their presidential selves during a performance. They bring musical
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political comedy to the Vilar Center Saturday.|Special to the Daily/Richard Termine|

They put the mock in democracy. Capitol Steps is flying to the mountains to dish out some bitingly comic political satire. They perform at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

The group’s latest album, “When Bush Comes to Shove,” features such rewritten classics as “Don’t Go Faking You’re Smart” (“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”) “Osama Come Out, Tomorrrow,” (Little Orphan Annie’s “Tomorrow”) and “Pack the Knife” (“Mack the Knife”). They also spend some time heckling non-political public figures, such as Mike Tyson: “Pardon Me Boys, Is this the Chap Who Tried to Chew You?” A fairly new addition to the ensemble’s variety show are those seminal rockers, Colonel Glick and the Inspectors, screeching, “I-N-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.”

Capitol Steps was born when three staffers for Sen. Charles Percy were in charge of the entertainment for a Christmas party. They scrapped the idea of a nativity scene after they were unable to find a wise man or a virgin in all of Washington, D.C.

Using the newspapers as their inspiration, they created songs and skits poking fun at the political world. Twenty-one years later, they’re still going strong.

“We’re like the Bush daughters,” said co-founder Elaina Newport. “Now we can drink.”

The big surprise was that nobody told them to stop. Not only that, they invited them to parties. They were only on the receiving end of chastisement once, when Republican Sen. Alfonse D’Amato from New York became irritated he wasn’t mentioned in the whole performance. He only had to wait a few weeks before he was headlining scandals of his own.

“We’re like funeral directors, waiting for tragedy so we can swoop in,” explained Newport.

Ronald Reagan was the president during Capitol Steps’ first years, which offered the group lots of fertile fodder. As Newport pointed out, going from acting to politics isn’t much of a stretch. The thing about political satire is there’s never a dearth of inspiration. The world today is as silly as it ever was.

“If anything, things seem more ridiculous,” attested Newport. “But some issues are very hard. For example, the Middle East. That’s a tough one, because there’s a lot of things that aren’t funny about it.”

So how do they handle it?

“Ah, that’s when you make fun of the public figures,” she said.

As for favorites, the group as a whole always loves a good sex scandal. Newport’s personal favorite was Ross Perot, because “he didn’t talk like a normal person.” As for the top dogs, Bill Clinton and Dan Quayle rivaled each other for easiest target – a truly bipartisan situation.

Capitol Steps perform in a variety of settings – public shows, universities, conventions. Apparently, everyone and their brother has a convention in D.C. – even the Seventh Day Adventist dentists. Capitol Steps has performed for them all.

“The public shows are the ones we like the best, like the one at the Vilar,” said Newport. “People who consciously choose to come to the show.”

The performance at the Vilar Center runs about 90 minutes. For more information call the Box Office at 845-TIXS or visit http://www.VilarCenter.org.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.




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