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Monday, November 20, 2006

I’m not sure what my favorite part of “Beach Blanket Babylon” is. The costumes are cleverly put together, and of course the show is famous for its elaborate hats. The cast is talented at both song and comedy, and the political satire and cultural commentary are topical. But I’d have to say the music is what I liked the most. The songs are mostly from the sixties through the nineties, with a couple from way before and a few from after. It’s like the soundtrack of my life.

It’s hard to pick a favorite character. This year’s show is loosely based on Snow White, a San Francisco girl who is traveling the world, looking for her prince. Along the way she meets Glinda the Good Witch, King Louie in an outrageous pink wig that towers over his head, a band of French poodles who sing and dance, and various people from the worlds of entertainment and politics, such as Paris Hilton, Martha Stewart, Donald Trump, Bill and Hillary, Bush and Cheney, and (of course) Arnold. And they all sing!

Some of the transitions are a little forced, but that’s part of the fun. You never know what song you’re going to hear next, whether it’s “Hit Me Baby One More Time” or “Tears on My Pillow” (which for some reason was the one that kept playing in my head on the ride home). The songs are almost always inappropriate for the characters singing them, but somehow it all comes together into a very entertaining couple of hours.

This being the holiday season, yesterday’s show ended with a Christmas medley, sung by dancing Christmas trees along with the rest of the cast. The finale was the city’s favorite song, “San Francisco,” and featured the biggest hats of the evening. One was an animated Christmas tree, and the other was the San Francisco skyline, pyramid and all.

19 November 2006

555 California Street, San Francisco.

This trip to San Francisco yesterday was my Christmas present from Mom, and it included brunch in the Carnelian Room on the fifty-second floor of the Bank of America building, the second tallest in the city. It was a typically foggy day, so all we could see at first was glare, but as time went by some of the fog cleared and through the haze we could see the bay, the bridge, and the other tall buildings downtown. It was definitely a different kind of Sunday for me.

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“Beach Blanket Babylon” was begun by Steve Silver in 1974 and has been playing continuously to packed houses ever since. That makes it the longest-running musical revue in the history of theater, and a true San Francisco institution. They even renamed the street the theater is on from Green Street to Bleach Blanket Babylon Boulevard. That’s pretty typically San Franciscan too, come to think of it. You can see some of the current cast members here, although not all were performing the day we went. (There was no Kirstie Alley, for example, but we did get Dick Cheney and his gun.)

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One year ago: Amethyst
"I filled my plate once, and that was all I could manage at the horrifically early hour of ten o’clock on Sunday morning."

Two years ago: May Day
"A May day in November is like a dose of natural antidepressant, if you know what I mean."

Three years ago: Blackout
"Maybe being aboard ship was more of a metaphor for life than I thought. Nothing mattered that wasn't happening between the boiler room and the bridge. So to speak."

Four years ago: Denial
"You know and I know that individual liberties are under attack, but we just had an election that proves most of the public wants it that way. Apparently we're willing to surrender our rights if it means we can be sure that the bad guys will be found and stopped before they can do any more damage."

Five years ago: Early Shopping
"They were all moving in different directions but all pointed at me. The ones that weren't moving were blocking my way."

Six years ago: Button Up Your Overcoat
"It apparently contains a substance that the FDA suspects of causing people to feel too good."

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