Theater Review: Big hats, big laughs at ‘Beach Blanket Babylon’

Hippie Peanut photo by Rick Markovich
Hippie Peanut photo by Rick Markovich
In Review

Steve Silver's Beach Blanket Babylon

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars - 'Sweet Stuff'
Club Fugazi, San Francisco
www.beachblanketbabylon.com
Review by
Hippie Peanut. Photo by Rick Markovich.
Hippie Peanut. Photo by Rick Markovich.

San Francisco! San Francisco! Just about everything gets spoofed with zealous energy, except, of course, our hometown which gets plenty of crowd pleasing, pride pumping pomp and circumstance.

And why not? At Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon it’s all about big hats and big laughs. It’s a formula that works. The musical revue has been entertaining throngs at the wonderful, velvety and intimate Club Fugazi for 38 years.

Try not to grin. Try not to laugh uncontrollably. I dare you. While there are groaners here and there, plus a few head-scratchers, part of the joy of the show is the relentless energy. The musical numbers and spoofs keep coming in waves.

Everyone—with the possible exception of Jesse James—is skewered, be it for a few seconds such as Tiger Woods, or for an entire medley such as the political number that included Nancy Pelosi (“Don’t mess with the speaker of the House… let’s rock!”), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill and Hillary Clinton (in a striking, pink power suit), John McCain, the Obamas. And, yes, beauty queen herself, Sarah Palin.

My head was spinning with all the pop culture and political references. It’s like Saturday Night Live on steroids, with a dash of Broadway pomp.

Beach Blanket Babylon: Think you've seen the largest pineapple hat, think again.
Beach Blanket Babylon: Think you've seen the largest pineapple hat before, think again.

Then the biggest—and possibly only—pineapple hat I had ever seen strolled out, with all manner of dancing, hopping and singing happening around it.

That was followed by the biggest bannana hat I’d ever seen.

But that was nothing compared to the finale which had me wondering if George Lucas was involved. Surfing the BBB web site I found out, indeed he was… at least for one particular event.

There is a story here, sort of. Snow White is looking for love. Her journey starts at San Francisco and quickly takes her across the globe with stops in Paris and Rome. For some reason she runs into Whoopi Goldberg and some of the cast of Dancing With the Stars while abroad. But plot and story are thankfully irrelevant here. It’s all about the parody, the spoof, the zinger.

If this was In-N-Out burger, it would be a double-double times two. But there would be no secret messages. Instead, to keep things real simple, and ease our weekend brain neurons, all the lampooned characters are labelled. You know, kind of like the Batman series in the 1960s. Hey, we’re “Jon & Kate”! I’m “Al Gore”! Look at me, “Britney Spears”! It’s all part of the fun.

The show evolves on a regular basis, so expect timely material. For example, iPad made an appearance at the weekend show. The Octomom bit, though,  felt dated.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi with President George W. Bush and VP Dick Cheney. Photo by David Allen.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi with President George W. Bush and VP Dick Cheney. Photo by David Allen.

Beach Blanket Babylon is the perfect way to escape, switch off your brain, and laugh away with your friends at the spectacle that unfolds at break neck speed.

Like any show built on a merry-go-round of one-liners, there are hits and misses, plus some flat spots here and there. And when many performers are collectively belting it out all at the same time, it can be slightly shrill. But, no matter. This is fast food for the stage.

Service is superb at Club Fugazi with waiters quietly ducking in and out during the show to make sure the drinks keep flowing. The seats are arranged casually around small tables. The lounge feel adds to the atmosphere and affords up-close views of the action.

Have fun, enjoy the show, and laugh the night away. San Francisco! That’s the ticket!

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