Capitol Steps is celebrating its 19th year, and from the sound of the audience’s approval at the troupe’s latest revue, “It Ain’t Over ‘Til the First Lady Sings,” these political satirists will be running long after their elective targets have been retired by the voters. Their distinctive brand of theater brings to mind the word “institution,” as does the D’Oyly Carte or the Metropolitan Opera, although on a somewhat more intimate scale, as befits a mere six performers.
One might quibble with the evening’s “First Lady” come-on, which is a tease that delivers a scant two appearances from Hillary Rodham Clinton impersonator Ann Schmitt, who is terrific in both sets. She also possesses a better singing voice than many musical-comedy performers currently residing on Broadway. Schmitt makes much of “Hillrita,” a takeoff on “Evita,” in which the Democratic New York state candidate for U.S. Senate tells her former opponent, “Don’t cry for me, Giuliani.”
George W. Bush’s intelligence — or lack thereof — gets skewered the most. Andy Clemence’s impersonation of the Texas governor is a leitmotif that keeps the show afloat. He’s definitely ready for primetime, as are his equally hilarious takes on Al Gore, Rick Lazio, Charlton Heston, Bob Dole, Pat Buchanan and Alexander Putin.
Hillary’s second appearance involves the president (Mike Thornton) and an intern (Linda Rose Payne). “Libido Loca” is sung to the tune of Ricky Martin’s No. 1 of some months back.
The pop sound comes as something of a shock here. Although Capitol Steps are known for their political satire, they are also inveterate show-tune queens. “Maria” from “West Side Story” becomes “Viagra,” as sung by Bob Dole (Clemence) and Liddy (Schmitt), and “Pakistani Bang Bang,” in which two Near East countries threaten to nuke each other, derives from the title song of that Dick Van Dyke charmer “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” A pump jockey sings “Fuel Am I” to the music of Anthony Newley’s “What Kind of Fool Am I?”
Even at 90 minutes, “It Ain’t Over…” could be over sooner. There seemed to be a significant diminuendo in audience response from Bill Strauss’ first helping of spoonerisms to his second. Also, bits on the horrors of Scottish gourmet cooking and another on movie prequels are entirely out of place in a political revue.