Friday 10 February 2017

Beach Blanket Babylon - Musical Madness in San Francisco

I stayed in San Francisco as a guest of and San Francisco Travel, though I paid for my airfare to the USA.

In October 2015 I visited San Francisco at a weekend, though regretfully I didn't wear a flower in my hair.

On the Saturday I took a couple of great walking tours, one focusing on the city's wilder history and the other on the late and eccentric 'Emperor Norton' (more about him another day).

On Sunday morning I caught a bus out to the Presidio, to explore a food truck market. Then, that evening, I headed to North Beach for Beach Blanket Babylon.

It's as fun and as crazy as it looks. This long-running musical revue started in 1974 and has played ever since, making it the world's longest of its kind.

Having done as I had been mysteriously bidden, "Ask for Eric", I was led to one of the cabaret-style tables up the front of the theatre, with an excellent view of the performers and their outlandish headgear.

The recurrent story, such as it is, is simple. Snow White has tired of San Francisco and wishes to travel the world to find her prince. What follows is a high-energy romp through diverse locales, which is actually a commentary on current events.

As Snow White travels, she encounters numerous celebrities and politicians, each skewered via lively satirical songs.

On the night I attended the figures onstage included Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, along with celebs from film and TV such as Oprah. I don't recall Donald Trump being among those present, so presumably he hadn't started making political waves at that point.

The songs were hilarious, the choreography fast-paced and beautifully timed.

And the headgear was extraordinary. A key characteristic of the show is the collection of giant headdresses worn by characters, either as complex hats or vast arrangements of hair. It makes each character into a live caricature, and also renders the performers' dance moves even more impressive.

Just check out this modest chapeau from the finale:

Beach Blanket Babylon is a great San Francisco experience, and ever-changing in its topical elements. You won't have any trouble following the plot if you're from outside the USA; some locals I spoke to were concerned I wouldn't recognise all the references, but I did.

You might also learn something about the city as you watch and laugh. Let's look at that final huge hat again - how many San Francisco landmarks can you spot?

Beach Blanket Babylon is presented at Club Fugazi, 678 Beach Blanket Babylon Blvd (formerly Green St), San Francisco, USA. Find performance times and make bookings at the show's website

[Photos used by permission, © Beach Blanket Babylon]

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