Attempting to put the “mock” in democracy, the Capitol Steps theater troupe performed at Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre Thursday, April 28.
Elaina Newport, a founder and long-running member of the group, said the group was formed in 1981 following the success of a skit show performed by senate staffers at a Christmas party.
“We thought we’d get fired or told to stop, but instead somebody asked us to a party next week,” Newport said, reflecting on the show’s origins.
Five presidents later, the critically acclaimed group is now in their 30th season. In what can only be described as The Daily Show of musical theater, the Capitol Steps make it their mission to lampoon both homegrown political issues and politics abroad.
Despite the show featuring an expansive cast of characters (everyone from Sarah Palin to Charlie Sheen is featured), the group currently consists of only five members: Tracey Stephens, Morgan Duncan, Jamie Zemarel, Mike Tilford and Newport.
Explaining the difficulty in constantly changing characters, Newport chuckled. “There’s more costume changes than a Lady Gaga concert.”
The cast is an interesting mix of people — some coming from backgrounds in politics, while others were picked up from the theater scene in the Washington D.C. area.
“There’s always been such a blurry line between acting and politics,” Newport said when explaining the odd fusion of performers. “So it’s a nice mix.”
As the show is subject to change every performance due to ongoing events in politics and pop culture, the entire cast fights to keep up-to-date with both national and international news.
“It’s weird,” Newport said. “You don’t listen to the news like a normal person. You don’t think, is this good or bad for the world or the country? You think, is it funny? And what rhymes with it?”
The musical highlights of the evening included “Hotel Arizona” (in which the group mocked Arizona’s controversial immigration policies), “March Like an Egyptian” (a clever send-up of the Egyptian revolution), “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Korea?” (a musical number from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il) and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Facebook” (a tribute to the social networking site as sung by a self-proclaimed “Facebook slut”).
As the show progressed, the group made it abundantly clear that no one was safe from their ingenious satire. Yet what was by far the most laugh-out-loud moment of the show was undoubtedly Stephens’ turn as “Alaska’s majesty,” Sarah Palin.
Having just released their 30th soundtrack, Desperate House-members, and with a 31st season on the horizon, the Capitol Steps seem to be showing no signs of slowing down.