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RI Archives: Arts

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Performing At Cranwell Resort, The Capitol Steps Take the Money and Run Amok

It seems that every political headline (and these days, in particular, there are plenty of those) has the potential to make you laugh or cry. The Capitol Steps, now performing for the sixth-consecutive year at Cranwell Resort in Lenox, has the ability to make you do both, i.e. laugh until you cry. This comedic troupe, specializing in political satire in song, is on fire, fueled by the upcoming presidential election and the all-too-plentiful fodder provided by our elected officials over the past year.

No stone is left unthrown by these stone-faced satirists, who open the show with SuperCongressDebtCommittee, set to the tune of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from The Sound of Music, and the laughs keep rolling from there. A moving rendition of Hotel Arizona parodying the Eagles’ ballad Hotel California pits a might-be illegal at the border against an ignorant border patrol guard, complete with aviator shades, demanding “your papers please.”

Rural Intelligence ArtsThe troupe even ventures into the realm of hip-hop, mocking Mitt Romney’s wealth with I Like Big Bucks, set to Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Baby Got Back. It’s awkward to watch a rich white guy shake his booty, and that’s the point.

For the Steps, nothing is sacred—not gay marriage, not the debt crisis in Greece, not birth control, not even the death of Osama bin Laden. A little ditty inspired by that current event, set to Under the Sea from the Disney film The Little Mermaid, outlines the capture, execution, and final resting place of the late al Qeada leader, with chuckle-inducing lines such as, “Instead of with virgins he’ll be with sturgeons, under the sea.”

Rural Intelligence ArtsSpeaking of virgins, in one segment the Devil has to inform Muammar Khadafi, upon his arrival in the underworld, that there are not 72 virgins waiting for him, but, rather, “a 72-year-old virgin.” The good news is that Khadafi will have a suitable roommate: North Korean president Kim Jong Il, played by the very petite, very talented Tracey Stephens. For this cross-dressed role, Stephens adopts a thick accent and dons a hysterical gray wig that nearly reaches the ceiling.

Along with other simple props, wigs play a significant part in this season’s Capitol Steps production. Of particular note is the Donald Trump comb-over that actually manages to cover the eyes of veteran stepper Mike Thornton, who later sports a winter-white wig for his brilliant interpretation of Vice President and White House PR nightmare Joe Biden. But, as with the wig and the VP himself, You Can’t Hide this Biden Guy. “Hello, I’m Vice President Joe Biden,” Thornton bellows. “And I’ve been asked not to speak in public so here I am!”

But Biden’s numerous foot-in-mouth moments pale in comparison to the lurid life of restaurateur Herman Cain, the G.O.P.‘s short-lived presidential hopeful whose spark was abruptly extinguished amid allegations of sexual harassment. Cain, as well as President Obama, is played by Matt Pearson, whose dry expression inspires laughter long before he even reaches a punchline. Pearson has quite the flair for pop music and delivers Cain’s “anthem,” Love Potion Number 9-9-9, with appropriately wicked humor.

Alongside new songs honoring this year’s debauchery and madness (the Steps’ new album is titled Take the Money and Run For President), The Capitol Steps perform some favorites that never seem to get old such as Lirty Dies, the hilarious, word-jumbling, brain-twisting monologue about picking our candidates (“That was he winking?”), and the song that could be the troupe’s anthem, We Didn’t Start Satire, a whirlwind trek of shame from the Reagan era to the present day, set to the Billy Joel hit We Didn’t Start the Fire.

The Capitol Steps has been splitting sides since its debut in 1981, when a group of Senate staffers got together to parody their employers in rhythm and rhyme. Now several troupes perform around the country, viewing it as their not-so-solemn responsibility to “put the Mock in democracy.” And with the election on the horizon, who couldn’t use a good mocking of the political system that brings you to tears—through laughter? —Nichole Dupont

Rural Intelligence ArtsThe Capitol Steps at Cranwell Resort
Lenox, Massachusetts
Now through September 2
Nightly @ 8 p.m. except Tuesdays
Sunday matinee @ 3 p.m.
Tickets $39
Box office: 413-881-1636 or online at capsteps@cranwell.com
Advance reservations recommended

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