It’s not hard for the Capitol Steps to find something or someone to spoof in song, but finding a song that perfectly contrasts a particular person or situation is a gift, says Elaina Newport, co-founder of the political satire group.

One of those “gift” scenarios arose last summer in the form of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who was reported missing, then discovered to be visiting his mistress in Argentina.

“It finally gave us the chance to use the song ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ (from the musical ‘Evita’),” said Newport, “which was a song we always loved, but how do you ever use that except for this case? So, once in a while, they’re just perfect.”

For almost 30 years, the Washington, D.C.-based group has been lampooning politicians and society by using songs from all musical genres.

When five members of the Capitol Steps perform Saturday at Merrill Auditorium in Portland as a benefit for the Brunswick Rotary Club, they’ll perform numbers on the burning news stories of recent times and material from their new album, “Liberal Shop of Horrors,” such as “Don’t Cry, I’m in Argentina,” “Strangers on this Flight” (set to “Strangers in the Night”) and “Fly of the Tiger” (set to “Eye of the Tiger”).

The Capitol Steps’ writers, including Newport, add a song each week to the group’s repertoire.

“You can be on the road as the Capitol Steps,” says Newport, “and you could get an e-mail that says, ‘Do you know this song? “Eye of the Tiger.” Here’s our words and learn it by tomorrow.’ That really happens. It freaks people out when they first join the group but they get used to it.”

With such a tight turnaround, the Capitol Steps’ performers and writers usually stick to national and international stories and people. Researching local stories of places the group will be visiting and then composing a new piece would take too much time.

“If you tell me a huge (Sen.) Susan Collins scandal, I’ll try to write something about it. I mean, if (Sen.) Olympia Snowe gets caught in a tickle fight, I’ll do something,” Newport said.

The Capitol Steps’ numbers also have to be about stories and people with which audiences are familiar.

“You have to be somewhat up with current events,” says Newport, “but, also, in terms of what we put on stage, we can’t be ahead of the audience. For example, you can’t do a song about (Sen.) John McCain’s amendment on regulatory reform just because we think it’s important because we live here in Washington (D.C.).”

The challenge for the comedy group is to figure out which news stories capture people’s attention. One such story is the health care bill, which gets lots of spoofing in the group’s show.

Newport says sometimes the anger many people are feeling over the health care bill shows up in the audiences at Capitol Steps shows, but not to the point where things are out of control.

“Recently, people started booing Nancy Pelosi when she (the performer portraying the Speaker of the House) comes out,” Newport said.

Newport sees the booing of the fake Pelosi (or the fake former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, for that matter) as cathartic for some people.

“If you have that anger and you see somebody getting up on stage and being lampooned a little, it helps to diffuse some of that.”

Staff Writer Stephanie Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:

[email protected]


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