Left, right or center, “Capitol Steps,” the musical satire out of Washington, D.C., has a laugh and an insult for everyone. Friends of Bill and Hillary will be tickled to see Newt Gingrich skewered in a takeoff of “The Phantom of the Opera,” while followers of the Speaker will get their chance as the President and First Lady get raked over the coals for one scandal after another.
Also singed during the course of the evening are Bob Dole, doing a standup comedy act as part of his search for a new career; Pat Buchanan, rallying the right-wing troops; Al D’Amato, as he quizzes Hillary about Whitewater; Hillary again, explaining how she made a killing in cattle futures; and Tipper Gore, wheeling her stiff-as-a-board husband Al around the stage on a handtruck. Other targets include Ross Perot, Yasir Arafat, Benjamin Netanyahu and Fidel Castro, who drums his way across the stage as the “Energizer Commie.” In honor of the show’s New York debut, both Mayor Giuliani and Governor Pataki get to have their own numbers.
Best bits include one in which a group of senior citizens celebrate their political clout in preserving their entitlements by singing a parody of “Treat Your Children Well”; a lifeless Boris Yeltsin supported, literally, by a chorus of aides who sing “Keep Him Alive” to the tune of “Staying Alive”; and a clever piece of wordplay in which the President slips and slides his way around a reporter’s questions in an only slightly altered reprise of “Who’s on First.”
In its 16 years of existence, “Capitol Steps” has always featured performers who have actually worked as Congressional staffers. The talented cast members in the reviewed performance made the right choice in giving up their day jobs. Leading the group are Bill Strauss and Elaina Newport, who helped create the show back in 1981 for the Senate Christmas party. Strauss is particularly amusing when offering his Spoonerism-laced lectures and Newport shines every time she takes the stage as Mrs. Clinton.
Jamie Zemarel hits as Bob Dole singing, and Ann Johnson has some wonderful moments. Mike Tilford is a consistently fine Bill Clinton in his Elvis mode (black leather jacket and dark shades) and especially wonderful as a Hasidic Jew doing an imitation of Fred Astaire singing “Cheek to Cheek” (“Hebron, I’m in Hebron …”).