Geneva Anderson digs into art

review: Crossing the bridge for Babylon—Beach Blanket Babylon’s Holiday show through December 31, 2010

Beach Blanket Babylon at Club Fugazi offers a legendary holiday show with BIG zany hats and racous spoofs on our celeb culture. Photo: Courtesy of Rick Markovich.

Hats off to Beach Blanket Babylon!  If you haven’t seen this show yet, or haven’t seen it in a while, it’s a fabulous way to usher in the holidays and a great excuse to let loose and laugh.  The holiday show features a chorus line of tap dancing Christmas trees, special parodies of traditional Christmas carols, and those GIGANTIC zany hats that have made the show so famous.  The classic BBB is all there to be sure, using Snow White’s globe-trotting search for a ‘Prince Charming’ to tie together a series of satirical renditions of popular songs that skewer all the famous people who appear on a first name basis in People magazine. The holiday show takes a poke at Barak and Michelle, Bill, Hillary, Sarah (Palin) Jerry (Brown), Meg (Whitman), Nancy (Pelosi), Oprah, Elvis, Arnold, Tina, Tiger, Madonna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Taylor (Swift), Barbara (Streisand), Marie (Antoinette and Osmond) and MORE.  The most essential elements are the gaudy, the outrageous and the downright silly.  You’ll see Louis XIV dressed in gay holiday garb with a HUGE glittery hairdo worthy of a flower show, a huge Planters Peanut dressed like Santa Claus, a chorus line of dancing French poodles, and the French Cancan performed by dancing trash cans.  And this is a show where everyone—even those playing the smallest of roles—has enormous musical talent.  The 4 person band led by Bill Keck generates a glorious musical reverie of back-to-back famous tunes.

Louis XIV bursts out in taffeta and glitter in Beach Blanket's babylon's holiday show through December 31, 2010 at Club Fugazi. Photo: Beach Blanket Babylon.

Louis XIV (Curt Branom) bursts out in taffeta and BIG glitter hair in Beach Blanket Babylon's holiday show through December 31, 2010 at Club Fugazi. Photo: Rick Markovich.

After running continuously since 1974, that’s 36 years!, you might wonder if the still show still feels fresh and vital, especially after the 2009 departure of legendary Val Diamond, the heart and campy soul of the show.  The answer is YES!  Tammy Nelson, who was Diamond’s understudy for 17 years, has stepped up and into Diamond’s hats.  Perhaps you caught her amazing 7th inning “God Bless America” at AT&T Park in San Francisco during Game 5 of NLCS dressed in the San Francisco Skyline hat.  In the holiday show, she plays Miss Italy, French Streetwalker, Jewish Mother, Cowgirl, and Fannie Mae in the LesMiserables number. She also wears the spectacular San Francisco skyline hat during the show’s finale, right next to Snow White in her BIG multilayered wedding cake hat.  BBB founder and producer Steve Silver died in 1995 but his handpicked successor, Jo Schuman Silver, has kept the creativity flowing.  The show is constantly being tweaked and updated for relevance—you’ll see references to Meg Whitman’s recent defeat, to Jerry Brown’s victory and to Sarah Palin and the Lipton tea-baggers.   But where oh where is gorgeous Gavin? 

In Beach Blanket Babylon’s Holiday Show, Shawn Ferris as Snow White travels the world in search of Prince Charming. She encounters a bunch of sassy women with BIG hair who set her straight. Photo courtesy of David Allen.

What about the main storyline itself–Snow White’s quest for her prince charming. After 36 years, you’d think that BBB would know, like we all do, that modern women who are looking for a “prince” will need to lower their expectations.  Attitude adjustment is taken care of by the savvy and zany women Snow White—played to her virginal and ditzy hilt by Shawn Ferris–encounters on her round the world search. Renée Lubin delivers an unforgettable hefty sassy Good Witch Glenda, Snow White’s main guide.  By the end of the show, Snow White’s  learned that most women want princess league perks and privileges and to find their true love BUT whether that fairy tale ending happens or not, women need to accomplish things in own right and to keep moving and growing through life.

The Sonoma connection:  Several BBB performers are from or live in Sonoma. Paulino Duran who plays Bill Clinton and Michael Phelps is from Sonoma and lives in San Francisco.  Doug Magpion who plays Michael Jackson lives in Sonoma.  And Bill Keck who lives in Sonoma has been BBB’s musical director and conductor for the past 17 years.  Keck directed the Sonoma Academy of Dance and Art’s stellar musical camp production of “School of Rock” in 2008 and he studied piano with Soulima Stravinsky, son of the great Russian composer Igor Stravinsky.   The energy from his four person band will keep you hopping all night long.

Beach Blanket Babylon couldn’t resist taking a poke at Republican Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman (Scott Reardon) who is parodied in Beach Blanket Babylon’s Holiday show though December 31, 2010. Photo courtesy of Rick Marcovich.

The show is in Club Fugazi, an intimate old-style North Beach theatre that accommodates 400.  There are cocktail tables on the bottom level and seating in the balcony. The 1913 building was formally called Casa Coloniale Italiana John F. Fugazi and was originally a community center for the Italian Colony of San Francisco.  Fugazi’s address is 678 Green Street but the portion of Green in front of the club has been renamed Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard. In the 1950’s and early 1960’s, Fugazi Hall was a popular venue for the Beat poetry readings. It appears in Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”: “Noon in desolate Fugazi’s, listening to the crack.”

New Year’s Eve Show:  Beach Blanket Babylon will ring in 2011 with two special New Year’s Eve performances on Friday, December 31, 2010 at 7 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. of the traditional holiday show.  Guests at each show will receive party favors, champagne, and truffles. Both performances will include a pastiche honoring the best and worst of 2010 in Beach Blanket Babylon tradition.  The 7 p.m. show will be out by 8:45 p.m. leaving time to have dinner and attend other parties or to get home safely before the party madness begins. The second show will end at the stroke of midnight and includes dancing until 1:30 a.m.  Tickets: $85 to $165. Phone (415) 421-4222


Parking:  The area around Club Fugazi is flush with parking facilities, including valet parking directly across from the theatre.  There are two other lots on Green Street as well as two more on Powell Street and another two on Vallejo Street.  Arrive early to get in line for a good seat because seating, while purchased at different price points, is not assigned. 

Show Times: Wednesdays and Thursdays 8:00 p.m., Fridays 6:30 p.m., Saturdays 6:30 & 9:30 p.m., Sundays 2:00 p.m. & 5:00 p.m.  Persons under 21 are not admitted to evening performances, but are welcome to Sunday matinees at 2 & 5 p.m. during which no alcohol is served. 

Tickets: $25 to $80.  (415) 421-4222 or


December 12, 2010 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment