Iconic San Francisco revue continues to improve with age
There are very few theatrical productions that make it to middle-age. Thankfully, “Beach Blanket Babylon,” which turns 39 this summer, is one of them. In fact, the revered San Francisco spectacle is the country’s longest-running revues.
That’s a terrific testament to the legacy that the late- Steve Silver left behind. Silver launched “BBB” back in the ’70s and the show immediately turned heads with its show-stopping musical parodies and clever plot—a whiny Snow White desperately searching for a Prince Charming. That may have been enough to lure audiences in initially, but Silver and his creative team went a step beyond, always updating the show by infusing it with a delicious gluttony of current events.
This is evident in the revue’s latest incarnation—a nonstop powerhouse of sheer brilliance that majestically surfs the peculiar waves of pop culture, scoops up as many headline-grabbers as it can and feasts on their absurdities.
Some of the A- and D-list celebs and politicos on display include Gen. Petraes, Gabby Douglas, Gov. Chris Christie, Honey Boo Boo, Clint Eastwood (and the Empty Chair), Mitt Romney (and “Book of Mormon”), Nicki Minaj, the Kardashians, and riffs on “Glee,” “Les Miserablés,” and a hilarious spoof of the hit song and video, “Gagnam Style.”
But there’s so many other performances, too, of course, and “BBB” still includes classic material that has been in the show for some time, such King Louis and The French Poodles, Banana Carmen, Barbra Streisand and a festive twist to the show’s Italian story arc, among others. It didn’t hurt that the SF Giants nabbed the World Series title last year either. If there’s one thing locals (even tourists) appreciate, it’s devotion to a sports team. And “BBB” boasts plenty of accolades to The City.
Beyond these robust production numbers—some of the most inventive you may ever see on stage—are the actual performers. Creative beasts, they all seem to be channeling a kind of rare cosmic juju that finds them demonstrating wicked exuberance and sublime artistry in equal measures. (Who are these people? And can they please rub off on me!)
Longtime theatergoers—near and far—already know that for 30 years Val Diamond was one of the revue’s standout performers, personifying the spunk and passion of the show that Silver’s widow, Jo Schuman Silver, has so brilliantly kept alive over the years. Diamond left the show in 2009 and her longtime understudy and show performer Tammy Nelson has filled in with aplomb. Other notables include Reneé Lubin, who’s been with “BBB” for many years and still packs a creative punch, Paulino Durán, Curt Branom and Doug Magpiong. Collectively, this merry clan comprise some of the hottest talent in The City.
The show’s revered headresses never looked better, either and to get a deeper look at what it takes to perform in those, take note of our trek behind the scenes here.
In the meantime, for a show that was intended to run for about six weeks 39 years ago, it has morphed into a passion pit of nonstop entertainment, seen by more than 5.5. million people, including The Royal Family.
During an interview for the show’s 35th anniversary, Schuman Silver told me that when Silver launched the show in 1974, “the whole city embraced it …I think it’s still running because you know you are going to walk in there and have a good time, see the most talented cast on stage and listen to songs that everybody knows. There’s just something magical about it.”
Fortunately, the spell doesn’t wear off.
To learn more about “BBB” or to purchase tickets, click here.