Putting the mock in democracy

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

When Elaina Newport and several other staffers in Sen. Charles Percy's office decided to spice up their 1981 Christmas party with some choice political parodies, they could not have known where it would lead. Thirty years later, the hardy troupe of current and ex-staffers known as the Capitol Steps boasts a discography of 36 albums. "Take the Money and Run -- for President," the group's latest release, will be the cornerstone of a Hylton Center show guaranteed to send the audience home in stitches, no matter their political persuasion.

Armed with musical and comedic aptitude, the Alexandria-based company strews mischief wherever Democrats, Republicans and independents congregate. The pool of 31 members, all based in the Washington area, are often on planes that pass in the night as they spread their wit from coast to coast. Each troupe operates in groups of six, five singer/actors who impersonate dozens of politicians in the course of a single evening and a pianist unperturbed by the parade of characters rapidly passing across the stage. Flushed with so many versatile members, they can perform in four different locales on a single day.

"We like to base each parody on a song people know," Newport said. "I write a lot of them and am always looking for connections. For instance, the split between North and South Korea is the subject of 'How do you Solve a Problem like Korea?' sung to the tune from '[The] Sound of Music.' The popularity of rap music finds Mitt Romney presented as a plain white rapper. Sometimes it's hard to make fun of boring subjects like the Greek economy, but we came up with a medley connecting the country of Greece with 'Grease' the musical."

In addition to the spot-on parodies, the key to every successful Capitol Steps production is the costumer, Laura Carrano. Whether the performer needs to become a perfectly coiffed Mitt Romney or Ross Perot with exaggerated ears, she provides whatever wigs and physical features are needed, from Supreme Court robes to chubby pigs. Quick changes are obligatory.

Onstage
The Capitol Steps
Where: Hylton Performing Arts Center, 10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas
When: 8 p.m. Saturday; 7:15 p.m. preperformance discussion in the Buchanan Partners Art Gallery
Info: $28 to $44; 888-945-2468; hyltoncenter.org

"The Hylton show will come at the height of the election frenzy," Newport said. "There, and wherever we perform, we want our audiences to forget about all the political turmoil in the world and to come out and have fun."

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