Beach Blanket Babylon – San Francisco, CA

[Article by Bruce Roberts]

When Tony Bennett croons about leaving his heart in San Francisco, tourists the world over call up fond memories of the Golden Gate Bridge, Cable Cars, Fishermans’ Wharf, Alcatraz-the world class sights and sites of “The City.”

Still, for me, frosting on the cake of a visit to San Francisco means tickets to Beach Blanket Babylon. Performed in the funky Club Fugazi, in mellow Italian North Beach, BBB is a raucus, rowdy, sometimes raunchy, foot-stomping, hand-clapping, LOL musical satire, that has entertained audiences in over 8000 performances since 1974. It is the longest live run in theater history, and what other show has its own street name:  Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard?

BBB has something for everyone.   Loosely structured around Snow White, searching the world for her Prince, the show’s performers pull in every  name in the news, every classic song, all with their own unique San Francisco interpretation.

Some of their bits have been in for years, and younger audiences may wonder at the allusions.   How many years since Man O Manischevitz has been a well-known ad, for example?

Yet every year, many of the skits are also new.  The World Series Champion SF Giants made their first appearance this year.  And the one-upmanship war between an ersatz Lady Gaga and her fake Katie Perry counterpart drew its first laughs in 2011, then hyped the audience to hysteria when the cast version of Justin Bieber-shy, naïve, inexperienced-came out, and was immediately rubbed up against by the two femme fatales, promising to be the best he’s ever had.

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The whole cast is flexible and multi-talented, changing character with each costume,  singing and dancing and clowning through every skit.  The show’s star though is Renee Lubin, a lady whose awesome voice could stop bridge traffic.  She’s Snow’s fairy godmother, she’s Tina Turner, she’s Michelle Obama, she’s Whoopee Goldberg, and several others, all sung with power and passion, and punctuated with a wicked wit.    Her many “Snow” nicknames for Snow White are showstopping.

And no bucket list is complete without seeing the BBB finale–the unforgettable hats trigger jaw-dropping amazement, followed by waves of nostalgia as the curtain descends with “Happy Trails to You, Till We Meet Again.”

Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but he left tears of laughter at Beach Blanket Babylon.

Beach Blanket Babylon is an ongoing musical revue in San Francisco, CA.  Click here to visit the Website!