‘BBB’ a San Francisco treat 

Every so often, it’s worth taking a moment to recognize the good things in life: “Beach Blanket Babylon” is one of those things.

Something simply must be right in the 21st century, with San Francisco’s most fun institution not just alive and well, but still kicking booty in the best of all ways.

Happily ensconced on its very own boulevard in the heart of North Beach, “BBB,” about to celebrate its 36th birthday in June, is somehow more than a musical revue with goofy costumes — it’s a living, breathing organism.

Creator Steve Silver, who died in 1995, must be tickled in heaven to see how his zany, wig- and hat-filled production lives on with glee.

At the same time, he wouldn’t likely be surprised, because the beauty of the show is how it’s built to change — at least a little bit — along with the times. Director-writer-choreographer Kenny Mazlow and writer-producer Jo Schuman Silver continue to carry out a seemingly simple purpose: to serve up sassy, topical comedy with great music, wrapped into a crazy, eye-popping, colorful package.

While the cast is just 10 people, the energy emitted from the stage feels like it’s coming from dozens.

A recent check-in reveals the basic thread of a story remains the same: Heroine Snow White’s search for true love takes her from San Francisco to cities across the world, where she meets up with characters of all kinds.

Mr. Peanut, King Louis, the French poodles and the Oil of Ole man are still on board. They’re joined by current pop culture heroes from Michael Phelps to Lady Gaga to Kate and Jon Gosselin, the Jonas Brothers, Susan Boyle and, of course, Barack and Michelle Obama.

Blazing in and out of costumes and characters, the amazing performers — Shawna Ferris, Jacqui Heck, Caitlin McGinty, Tammy Nelson, Curt Branom, Paulino Duran, Ryan Rigazzi, Phillip Williams and 25-year veteran Renée Lubin — not only make their work look easy, they make it look fun. (While longtime fans may miss the beloved Val Diamond, who left the show after 30 years in the spotlight, newcomers aren’t being shortchanged with the current cast.)

A smashing band provides perfect accompaniment; though, like “American Idol,” it seems slightly odd that most of the music doesn’t necessarily reflect current culture (Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” stands out for being contemporary).

Still, "BBB’s" magic lies in its sweet, timeless universality that manages to both embrace and defy trends.

Never mean, always playful, and having fun by laughing with, rather than laughing at, it’s a one-of-a-kind, only in San Francisco treat that lives up to its wild reputation.

Did we mention anything about those you-have-to-see-them-to-believe-them hats? The current San Francisco version boasts AT&T Park, Coke bottle and all.


THEATER REVIEW
Beach Blanket Babylon

Where:
Club Fugazi, 678 Beach Blanket Babylon Blvd., San Francisco  
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays; 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 2 and 5 p.m. Sundays
Tickets: $25 to $80
Contact: (415) 421-4222; www.beachblanketbabylon.com

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Doug Graham

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