- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 26, 2000

The Capitol Steps are tripping the light fantastic as they make the amphitheater at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center their permanent home Sept. 2.
"It's theater seating," spokesman Bill Hurd says. "It's no longer a restaurant, but a real stage with real lighting."
The 25-member Washington-based singing troupe, named for a former representative's tryst on the marble steps, consists of Hill staffers-turned-comedians. When they move to the Reagan building, they will perform every Saturday in a sleek, 600-seat theater in the building's concourse.
"We're growing up as an organization," Mr. Hurd says. "The Reagan Building gives our show almost an equivalent to the National Theatre, only our shows are more fun and comical."
For 13 years, the Capitol Steps performed at the darkened, well-hidden Chelsea's in Georgetown. That ended in February.
"The restaurant closed for tax problems," producer and co-founder Elaina Newport says. "It was traumatic. The Capitol Steps didn't have any ownership in the restaurant, so on a Thursday afternoon, they locked the doors, and that left us with about 500 phone reservations, so we had to call everybody back."
They moved to the Latham Hotel in Georgetown and then Petitbon's in Rosslyn. The latter restaurant sat 200, and the Capitol Steps yearned to return to their home in the District. They had performed often at the amphitheater in the Reagan building, and the General Services Administration, which owns the building, held a number of events there. Ms. Newport approached the GSA about making the place a permanent home for the troupe.
"It has tremendous sightlines," Capitol Steps Director Bill Strauss says. "It gives us a chance to be seen and heard a little better than in a little nightclub. It was fun, of course, with everything being packed together, but then again, we were packed together, and the audience can't always hear too well. The show works both ways as a cabaret and a theatrical experience."
The group, five of whom are on stage for any one show, will perform on Saturday nights — as opposed to its previous schedule of Friday and Saturday — because of a heavy touring schedule. The Steps will perform at 100 functions in October alone and do an average of 500 performances around the country in a year.
The Capitol Steps performed in New York off-Broadway this June at the Fairbanks Theater in Manhattan and will extend the run through Labor Day. Previously, they had performed in the John Houseman Theater in the winter and spring of 1997 and did a second run at the Houseman in summer 1998.
"There's a good chance we'll have another off-Broadway setting within the year," says Mr. Strauss, who founded the troupe with Ms. Newport and Jim Aidala.
The troupe, which began in 1981, is basically a team of parody singers. The performers' latest targets have been songs about President Clinton ("Livin' Libido Loco"), George W. Bush ("Son of a Bush") and former Kansas Republican Sen. Bob Dole ("Viagra," to the tune of "Maria.") They plan on satirizing Mr. Bush appearing on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and a new song called "Lieberman," to the tune of Sammy Davis Jr.'s "Candyman."
The Capitol Steps have performed for four presidents. The Steps have released 20 albums, with their latest, "It's Not Over 'Til the First Lady Sings."
"I like to think we've gotten better as we've gotten more practice," Ms. Newport says with a laugh. "We try to do impressions of our characters more carefully. So if Hillary [Rodham Clinton] changes her hairstyle, we run out to make sure to do the same."

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