Election Year Fun from “Capitol Steps”

The stars must have been in perfect alignment for the Montgomery County Performing Arts Society last Tuesday night. For openers, it was a perfectly lovely autumn evening on Lake Conroe when the organization’s patrons gathered for an elegant “Pre-Party” offered by proprietor, Gerry Kelly, at his aptly named Waterside Inn at lakeside. (Visit the website at http://www.WatersideInnOnLakeConroe.com). Arriving guests had a cheerful welcome from MCPAS Executive Director, Christine LeMaire, and were treated to a delicious assortment of hot hors d’oeuvres, as they enjoyed a chic cocktail hour with waterfront views. Then it was on to the main event, the timely MCPAS performance of “Capitol Steps,” a perfect lampooning of all things political in these last weeks before the much-anticipated presidential election of 2008.

I’d had my first taste of the zany Capitol Steps format when MCPAS hosted the group just before the election of 2004. It was great fun then, and certainly this year’s election supplied plenty of ammunition for the current edition’s spoofing of the politics of our time. Just before curtain, MCPAS President, Claude Cooke, stepped on stage to greet the full-house crowd at Conroe’s Crighton Theatre. He explained that the Capitol Steps organization was born in 1981 as a group of Senate staffers planned some fun for a Christmas party, and had difficulty casting the Nativity Scene when they discovered that “…in all of Congress they could not find Three Wise Men.” That was just a taste of the fun that would follow.

While unaccredited in the program, the simple production featured a talented cast of five comically versatile performers and a fine accompanist on the grand piano. In an almost Vaudeville-style show, a series of amusing sketches and impersonations would leave few of our leading politicians unscathed. The group performed popular tunes that were cleverly re-written with biting political slants. “Mama Mia,” became “Obama Mia,” while “Dancing Queen,” became “Dancing McCain.” The timely humor even featured Joe the Plumber. The hilarious George W. Bush impression featured the President planning a “…flyover to assess the damage of his 8-year presidency,” and cautioning the audience that, “Uncertain times call for uncertain leadership!” Concerning the current economic crisis, the president reflects that he “…should have gone to FreeCreditReport.com.” Malapropisms abound as the president explains that, “If it wasn’t for Dick Cheney I’d think FEMA was a bone in the leg,” and continues with such gems as, “I had some polyps removed from my cologne,” “I may not be the brightest drawer in the knife bulb,” and “It’s time to look back and refract on my presidency.”

When we meet Alaskan Governor, Sarah Palin, she confides that she knows “…many Americans are afraid their mortgage may be foreclosed and they will lose their igloo,” and when Dick Cheney comes on stage he muses, “Conroe—- I think I shot a man here once.” A Bill Clinton impression was a standout, and Hillary arrives from Shamalot in Elizabethan garb to recite a vaguely Shakespearean “To Cry, or Not to Cry.” Obama arrives to warn that “Two wrongs don’t make a Reverend Wright,” and goes on to duet with Hillary for “Ebony and Ovaries.” Spoofing the recent “bailout” bill, President Bush is joined by House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson for a trio of “The Monster Cash,” while John McCain reprises the Beatles “When I’m 64,” as “When I’m 84.” Senator Larry Craig arrives on stage in his very own toilet stall. Need I say more?

There were cute ensemble numbers like the well-choreographed, “401K” to the tune of “YMCA,” and the old hit, “Leader of the Pack,” became “A Leader Like Barack.” Vice-Presidential debate moderator, Gwen Ifel, is accused of asking “…questions as tough as a final exam for players on football scholarships at Texas A&M,” and she proves it when she challenges vice-presidential candidate, Joe Biden, with “How would you respond to whatever question you would like me to ask you?” Governor Palin assures us she is ready to handle foreign affairs because she serves Russian salad dressing at home. Cast member, Mike Tilford, did the wrap-up reciting a tongue-twisting sample of the group’s popular “backwards talk” known as “Lirty Dies,” a kind of pig Latin-style gibberish that is great fun. Come to think of it, great fun seems to be what Capitol Steps is all about.

The next MCPAS event will feature Broadway and motion picture composer, Marvin Hamlisch, in concert at the Crighton Theatre on Friday night, November 14th, 2008. For tickets and information call 936-760-ARTS (2787) or visit the website at www.mcpas.org.

About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), The International Theatre Critics Association, and America's oldest theatrical club, The Lambs, he also had long service as the editor of The Lambs' Script magazine. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.
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