Entertainment » Theatre

Beach Blanket Babylon

by Roger Brigham
Contributor
Tuesday Dec 4, 2012
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Holiday Hats at ’Beach Blanket Babylon’
Holiday Hats at ’Beach Blanket Babylon’  (Source:Rick Markovich)

Campy, over-the-top, unadulterated silliness such as "Beach Blanket Babylon" is founded on should have a dated feel to it after 38 years, but it simply isn’t so. Relying on a steady stream of visual puns and parodies lambasting a seemingly endless array of political and pop culture punching bags, it continues to delight locals and tourists alike. The pop culture references may be time specific, but the chagrin the trigger is timeless.

You do not go to this musical revue for the simple story, which is about a clueless Snow White wandering the planet in a vain search for her prince, so much for the story-telling. You go to hear rap-singing French poodles and the President singing "Barack Around the Clock." You go to catch as many of the pun-filled rewrites of pop songs. But mostly you go to see the hats and hairdos.

Stage make-up and costumes are usually designed to subtly suggest things; "BBB" make-up and costumes are designed to make bawdy propositions. Puffy coiffed hair rises in swirling columns above the actors, who are similarly attired in bright, exaggerated costumes. There is nothing they then can utter without automatically seeming to be hysterically funny.

But is is not all big hair and clown costumes. The energy and infectious humor of the performers as they deliver lines ranging from chuckle-worthy to forehead-slapping engages the wine-sipping galleries in non-stop laughter.

San Francisco may not have the snow-covered streets that are the charm of many winter holiday tourism destinations, but nobody does tap-dancing Christmas trees better.

The cast of characters in the show constantly evolves as individuals leap in and out of the public consciousness. Governors Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger have graced past performances but give way now to more trendy politicos such as Mitt Romney and Michelle Bachmann, both suffering post-election blues. One can never see Hillary Clinton in a pants suit again without chuckling or listen to Barbra Streisand croon "People" without staring at her fingernails.

The highlights of the holiday special are the tap-dancing Christmas trees and the unveiling of the signature Christmas hat in the final number. San Francisco may not have the snow-covered streets that are the charm of many winter holiday tourism destinations, but nobody does tap-dancing Christmas trees better.

Yes, nothing makes much sense in "BBB," from the dancing trash cans of Paris to Rome’s battling Top Chef, Iron Chef, Naked Chef and Chef Boy R D. But it does make a lot of fun, especially when you are working your way stage-side through a coupe of bottles of merlot. Nobody makes sense out of the political and pop music nonsense like "BBB."

"Beach Blanket Babylon" runs in an open-ended engagement at Club Fugazi, 678 Beach Blanket Blvd. This special holiday show runs through Dec. 31. For info or tickets, call 415-421-4222 or visit www.beachblanketbabylon.com.

Roger Brigham, a freelance writer and communications consultant, is the San Francisco Editor of EDGE. He lives in Oakland with his husband, Eduardo.

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