No political person or entity is above satirizing when the Capitol Steps take aim at democracy. Submitted photo

Archived Story

Mendel Center presents Capitol Steps

Published 10:58am Saturday, September 15, 2012

BENTON TOWNSHIP — Just as the nation heads into the home stretch of the presidential campaign, the Capitol Steps plan to bring down the house … and Senate with its unique blend of music and political comedy when the group’s production comes to the Lake Michigan College Mendel Center Mainstage for one performance at 7 p.m. Oct. 14.

No political person or entity is above satirizing when the Capitol Steps take aim at democracy. With musical political satire that is fresh, crisp and taken directly from the headlines, the Capitol Steps put the “mock” back in democracy.

Thirty years ago, the Capitol Steps began as a group of Senate staffers who set out to satirize the people and places that employed them. In the years that followed, many of them ignored the conventional wisdom (“Don’t quit your day job!”), and, although not all of the current members are former Capitol Hill staffers, taken together the performers have worked in a total of 18 Congressional offices and represent 62 years of collective House and Senate staff experience.

The Capitol Steps have recorded more than 30 albums, including the latest, “Take the Money and Run for President,”  and a special holiday release “Barackin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” They’ve been featured on NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS and can be heard four times a year on National Public Radio stations nationwide during “Politics Takes a Holiday” radio specials.

The Capitol Steps were born in December 1981 when some staffers for Sen. Charles Percy were planning entertainment for a Christmas party. Ronald Reagan was president when the Steps began, so co-founders Elaina Newport, Bill Strauss and Jim Aidala figured that, if entertainers could become politicians, then politicians could become entertainers.

Their first idea was to stage a nativity play, but in the whole Congress they couldn’t find three wise men or a virgin. So, they decided to dig into the headlines of the day and created song parodies and skits which conveyed a special brand of satirical humor that was as popular in Peoria as it was on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Most cast members have worked on Capitol Hill; some for Democrats, some for Republicans and others for politicians who firmly straddle the fence. No matter who holds office, there’s never a shortage of material.

“Typically, the Republicans goof up, and the Democrats party. Then the Democrats goof up, and the Republicans party. That’s what we call the two-party system,” Newport said.

Although the Capitol Steps are based in Washington, D.C., most of their shows are out-of-town or for out-of-town audiences, whether it’s the National Welding Supply Association, a university audience, high schoolers or state legislators. In fact, the Capitol Steps have performed for the last five presidents (six, if you include Hillary). The only complaints the Steps seem to get are from politicians and personalities who are not included in the program.

The material is updated constantly. Current examples include the Tea Party’s colorful invasion into the political spectrum (“Fun Fun Fun ’til Obama Takes Our Tea Bags Away”) and the Democrats’ plan to defeat the deficit (“Return to Spenders”). In addition, they offer their own take on such trending topics as the T.S.A. pat downs, Facebook and illegal immigration according to Arizonians. No matter who or what is in the headlines, the Capitol Steps will tackle both sides of the political spectrum and all things equally foolish.

Tickets for The Capitol Steps are available by calling the Mendel Center Box Office at (269) 927-1221 or visiting www.lmcmainstage.org. Students (kindergarten through college) and seniors (60 and older) receive $3 off single-ticket prices. Groups of 20 or more receive $5 off ticket prices. For further information about group rates and special arrangements, contact Quinn Tabbert at (269) 927-8609 or qtabbert@lakemichigancollege.edu.

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