Arts & Events

Theatre Revue Review: Q: Visitors? A: BEACH BLANKET BABYLON

By John A. McMullen II
Monday July 05, 2010 - 05:22:00 PM
Past performer Linda Bulgo and current director and alum
            Kenny Mazlow in BBB at Club Fugazi a la 1990 © SSPI 2010
Past performer Linda Bulgo and current director and alum Kenny Mazlow in BBB at Club Fugazi a la 1990 © SSPI 2010

When you have people come to visit, not taking them to Beach Blanket Babylon is like not taking them to Chinatown or Ocean Beach. And about once a decade or so, you should just go and enjoy. 

It hasn’t changed much; if it ain’t broke…. This is the newest version, though it seems like it was written during the last presidential campaign. 

First-class belters with amazing stamina who could each be on Broadway, 300 lbs. hats (yes, that heavy!), corny, corny segues that give them any old excuse to break into song accompanied by outrageous puns (e.g., somebody says “Can-Can” and they all come out dressed as Parisians with garbage cans on their heads!). There is a fast and furious parade of well-known caricatures: Obama, James Brown, Elvis, Madonna, Jon and Kate, Octomom, Al Gore, even Hassidim with Mogen David bottles on their head, a Yiddishe Mama, et. al. 

And, of course, Snow White, who is played by Shawna Ferris as an annoying little twit looking from SF to Rome to Paris for her Prince—the twit part is just a set-up for her amazing, flying transformation. This time Glinda is a Big Black good Witch with a terrific voice (Renee Lubin) who never passes on a chance to make a joke out of Snow’s name. 

When I saw it thirty years ago having just arrived in SF, I thought it ranked right up there with sliced bread; but I wasn’t a theatre critic then. A thousand plays later, going back to see it was just a good time sentimental journey. 

It’s kitschy vaudeville that is the longest still-running musical revue—1974 and still going strong—and a living monument to Steve Silver who started it on a itsy-bitsy stage hardly big enough for the hats, up at the Savoy Tivoli on Grant Street before it moved to Club Fugazi. Not many productions have the very street they are located on named for them—but it sure makes the place easy to find.  

There aren’t really any funny lines per se, and it’s pretty sophomoric humor overall, but the extraordinary voices, costumes, ENORMOUS HATS AND WIGS, and quick-changes make up for it. Ninety minutes of every song you ever knew the lyrics to. One particularly well-conceived and executed skit a la Les Miserables featuring the political sextet of Bill, Hillary, McCain, Palin, the President and First Lady. Replete with exceptional talent, right down to Jacqui Heck’s classic abs with much displayed navel appearing often as centerpiece.  

Three stand-out memorable moments: Tammy Nelson’s “Crazy” with her own entrancing, behind-the-beat styling. It doesn’t matter that she’s dressed like a French whore with a lamppost sticking four feet out of her bouffant wig while she sings it; Curt Branom as Mel Brooks’s Louis “It’s Good to be King” XVI; Kirk Mill’s incredible falsetto as Elvis. 

It will be the highlight of your visitors’ vacation, with enough gay humor so that the folks from Cedar Falls can tell all their friends back home they’ve really experienced Baghdad by the Bay. 

And, if by some incredible cultural oversight, you have never personally seen BBB, well, you just ought to be ashamed of yourself and moved to go out and immediately right this self-perpetrated indignity. By the way, I’ve never been to Alcatraz. 



678 Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard (Green Street), North Beach, San Francisco 

Wed & Thu 8:00 pm, Fri 6:30 pm, Sat 6:30 & 9:30 PM. Sun 2:00 & 5:00 PM (Mats) 

Tickets/Info: (415) 421-4222 / 


Created by Steve Silver, written by Kenny Mazlow and Jo Schuman Silver, produced by Jo Schuman Silver, directed and choregraphed by Kenny Mazlow, asst. director/choregrapher Mark Reina, musical director/conductor/arranger Bill Keck. 


WITH: Curt Branom, Paulino Duran, Shawna Ferris, Jacqui Heck, Doug Magpiong, Caitlin McGinty, Kirk Mills, Tammy Nelson, Renee Lubin, Ryan Rigazzi, and Phillip Percy Williams.