AISLE SAY San Francisco


Originally conceived, written, produced & directed by Steve Silver
Produced by Jo Schuman Silver
Directed by Kenny Mazlow
Club Fugazi
678 Green St., San Francisco / (415) 421-4222

Reviewed by Judy Richter

When the musical revue known as "Beach Blanket Babylon" was first seen with that title on June 7, 1974, Richard Nixon was still president, though not for long, because he resigned and Gerald Ford replaced him in August 1974. Since then, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have occupied the White House. Through all of those administrations, Steve Silver's irreverent show has continued to lampoon the rich, famous and powerful while paying homage to its home city, San Francisco.

Part of the secret behind "BBB" is that Silver, and now his widow, Jo Schuman Silver, and crew have kept it fresh by constantly inserting new bits to keep up with the news and popular culture. Another part is the outrageously creative hats and wigs that adorn the characters. Yet another part is that the basic story remains the same -- Snow White, a San Francisco resident, embarks on a world tour to find a good man. Along the way she meets some characters who have remained consistent, such as a fairy princess, Mr. Peanut, several residents of Rome, a witch doctor, some Parisian denizens like Louis XIV and dancing poodles, and finally Elvis Presley. But sometimes there's a new twist in these familiar folks. Mr. Peanut, for example, now totes an iPad.

Then there are all the new ones, usually people whose missteps or foibles have put them into the news -- a pot-smoking Michael Phelps, the Clintons (Bill holds a large bottle of Viagra, which he calls "my stimulus package"), Lady Gaga, Tiger Woods, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Larry Craig, Levi Johnston, Sarah Palin, John McCain, Tiger Woods, Martha Stewart, octomom Nadya Suleman, John Edwards, Lehman Bros., Oprah Winfrey, the Obamas and others.

They're just a few of the characters who make their hilarious appearance, some only as sight gags in this fast-paced, 90-minute show that packs audiences into the cabaret-style Club Fugazi in San Francisco for show after show. Because the show changes so quickly and because not all cast members appear in every show, the program doesn't list who plays whom. One of the more familiar faces in the show I saw recently was Renée Lubin, who shows up as the fairy princess, Oprah, Tina Turner and Michelle Obama, among others. Another was Tammy Nelson, who has assumed the roles taken by the legendary Val Diamond, who left the show last year. We see her as the Parisian singing "Love for Sale," as a Jewish mother and an array of other women, climaxed by her appearance in the finale wearing a gigantic San Francisco skyline hat, complete with moving cable car, and leading the singing of "San Francisco."

The other versatile performers seen at this particular show were Shawna Ferris, Jacqui Heck, Caitlin McGinty, Curt Branom, Paulino Durán, Doug Magpiong, Ryan Rigazzi and Phillip Percy Williams. The show is directed and choreographed by Kenny Mazlow, who often performs in it. He also is Jo Silver's co-writer. Bill Keck directs the band, while the sound is by Tom Schueneman, and the lighting adaptations are by Ignacia Orellana-Garcia. Matthew James is in charge of prop and hat construction, while Timothy Santry is the wig master, and the finale hats were executed by Alan Greenspan.

Another pleasure of going to "BBB" is that it's in San Francisco's famed North Beach, a bustling neighborhood where the Italian presence looms large with an array of restaurants and gelato shops. Because it's fairly close to the northern edge of Chinatown, Asian restaurants can be found, too. The biggest pleasure of all is that one can go back to "BBB" time after time and find that much has changed and much is the same. The joy is in discovering both, especially as the show's creators keep it as fresh as today's headlines.

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