Who is that woman in the Tina Turner wig, firing a musical salvo at former Washington Mayor Marion Barry?
Why, it's Ann Schmitt of Annapolis, now a member of the nationally known, musical satire troupe Capitol Steps. It's the same Ann Schmitt who said she moved to the Washington area six years ago to find a "real job," away from the instability, the craziness of the New York theater world.
Right. Now she works on Capitol Hill, where political reality is what you make it, where in the worst of times -- especially in the worst of times -- one thing is abundant: Fodder for satire.
So instead of acting off-Broadway or singing in dinner theaters, Schmitt's working in the Senate Documents office by day and lobbing satirical grenades by night. And if you've heard the Capitol Steps -- who will appear March 7 at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis -- you know the shrapnel flies in all directions: war, taxes, the left, the right, the press, Dan Quayle. Especially Dan Quayle.
"I'm a registered Republican but I'll vote for whomever I like," said Schmitt. "I think most people in the group are like that. We definitely make fun of both sides."
And Marion Barry gets his due in "Proud Barry,"sung to the tune of the Creedence Clearwater Revival hit "Proud Mary." "I love doing 'Proud Barry,' " said Schmitt, who has lived in Annapolis since 1987. "I get to do my Tina Turner imitation."
Her Barbra Streisand's not bad either, as she demonstrates in "Sequels," sungto the tune of "People."
"People . . . People who make sequels, must be the wealthiest people in the world . . ."
Capitol Steps gotits start humbly enough in 1981, when Elaina Newport and Jim Aidala,who were working as aides to then-Senator Charles Percy of Illinois,started singing funny songs at an office Christmas party. The troupehas since grown to 15 members, recorded nine albums and appeared on national television and radio performing such tunes as "Stand by YourDan" -- Quayle, ofcourse -- "A Pint of Bush Lite," and "We Need a Little Isthmus" -- a take on the invasion of Panama. All troupe memberseither are working on Capitol Hill or have done so at one time.
The concert at Maryland Hall is sponsored by the Anne Arundel Trade Council as part of a Scholarship Gala to benefit county youngsters.
Schmitt has been singing with the group since 1987. She said she auditioned for the troupe after reading an article about the Capitol Steps in Washingtonian magazine in 1986.
Schmitt had moved to Washington the year before after working in New York City as a singer, dancer, waitress and cheerleader for the now-defunct New York Cosmos soccerteam. She wanted to continue performing, but did not have the time to devote to dinner theater or community theater. The New Jersey native has appeared in off-Broadway productions, television movies, dinnertheater and sung the National Anthem at Giants Stadium and the Capital Center.
Singing political satire presents special challenges, Schmitt said. For one thing, there are always new songs to learn, and old songs are often revised to keep pace with the news.
"You get lyrics faxed over to you in the afternoon, you have to learn it by that night," Schmitt said. "Sometimes lyrics are handed to you right before a show."
And sometimes the satirists get ahead of the story. As when the Capitol Steps performed for then-Vice President Bush at the vice presidential mansion. This was shortly before the 1988 Republican National Convention where Bush announced that he had chosen a young U.S. senator from Indiana as his running mate.
Bush was joking with the troupe during the performance, Schmitt said, and at one point "he said 'Hey, who should I pick for vice president?' We said, 'Just pick somebody funny.' "