Last night I had the chance to take in a showing of Beach Blanket Babylon, San Francisco’s home grown musical revue. It’s supposedly the longest running review in America, starting out in 1974 at the Club Savoy Tivoli in North Beach, San Francisco’s Italian neighborhood. The show is comedy at its finest – witty dialog that plays on current events and has a sharp point of view on the world, coupled with fun music and entertaining costumes and sets that enhance the piece without detracting from it. Oh yeah, they also serve drinks during the show, which makes everything funnier (disclaimer, I did not drink as I was driving – so my account of the show is un-tinted by the glow of alcohol).
The show is a pop-culture junkie’s dream come true. Musical scenes poke fun at everything from the Royal Family to Glee to Magic Mike. They spend a fair amount of time on politics and nothing is sacred. They make fun of the right, the left and everything in between. One of my favorite scenes is a spectacular number with Madonna flying through the air singing Defying Gravity from the play Wicked. Another favorite is a number where Snow White, the show’s main character, gets down and dirty with Beyonce singing All the Single Ladies.
I have to be honest though; while I laughed most of the night, there was one scene in the revue that made me stop and think seriously about the state of the world, and it wasn’t actually funny at all. It was pretty serious. Let me explain – The scene is a play on Les Miserables, the broadway musical and Victor Hugo novel about the French Revolution. Les Mis takes place right before the war and chronicles what life is like for the peasantry. It’s one of my least favorite books ever, mostly because the lives of these people are so miserable and they suffer extensively because of the economic and social issues of the day (yeah, yeah, I get it – that’s where the name comes from). In Beach Blanket Babylon, the “Les Mis” scene is set in current day America with Democrats and Republicans squabbling and Occupy protestors in the background looking on. Hmmmmmm…..that makes you stop and think about where things are at.
Anyway – like I always say – don’t let thinking get in the way of a good night, and this show didn’t. It was just a little bit of commentary on current affairs that made you realize that while you might be enjoying yourself tonight, there are still a lot of things we need to take care of out there in the world. Wow – laughs with a message. Bravo BBB! A must see for SF natives and visitors alike.