Beach Blanket Babylon

Review of a San Francisco Tradition

Banana Carmen in Beach Blanket Babylon
••• Banana Carmen in Beach Blanket Babylon. Courtesy of Beach Blanket Babylon

The basic story line is simple: Snow White travels around the world, looking for her Handsome Prince. It's what happens to her along the way that gets complicated - and mixed up - and funny - in San Francisco's long-running musical revue.

The Beach Blanket Babylon Experience

Beach Blanket Babylon is a musical stage revue, based loosely on Snow White's search. It's also packed with satire, poking fun at public figures from across the spectrum.

Original song lyrics cleverly morph into jokes and the butt of those jokes changes with lightning speed.

Current events sometimes get into the show's script within weeks, but oddly, a few of the jokes have been hanging around since the Clinton administration. Paraphrasing an old saying about the weather, if you don't like the current one, just wait a minute, and it will change.

You can't talk about this show without talking about their signature hats. They start out big - and by big I mean 4 to 5 times the size of the performer's head. By the grand finale, they're gargantuan, so tall that you're likely to spend a moment or two wondering whether they will get stuck in the overhead curtains while getting onstage.

The theater is small, with seating on the floor and in the balcony, all of it on wooden chairs similar to what you might find at a comedy club.

Good Side of Beach Blanket Babylon

  • Beach Blanket is good, casual, fun entertainment that you can sit back and enjoy without having to think too much.
  • Anything goes as far as attire, but sparkly dressed up to casual. You can go in the same garb you've been touring the city in all day if you want and not feel out of place.
  • The location is very convenient, with lots of restaurants nearby (which are listed on their website).
  • Showtimes are also convenient, making it easy to make an evening out of the show and dinner without having to search for that one restaurant that's open early or really late.

    Bad Side of Beach Blanket Babylon

    • While I wouldn't use the words "packed like sardines" to describe seating density, they make use of every square inch, and you'll probably rub shoulders with folks next to you, at least every once in a while.
    • The chairs could be more comfortable, and even my own well-padded seat wished the chair itself had a little more padding for it.
    • Servers circulate throughout the show to take drink orders, which can temporarily distract you from the show, especially when the guy down the row from you tries to pay for a $4 drink with a $100 bill.
    • Tickets can be expensive if you get the best seats on a busy weekend

    The Bottom Line

    If your personal playlist reads like a 1960s jukebox, you'll love the music, but don't expect a serious story line, a Broadway-style production, or satire as well crafted as the best television comedy shows. If you just relax and don't take it all too seriously, it's a fun way to spend an evening.

    Beach Blanket Babylon may not be for you if you prefer your entertainment serious and thought provoking, if you don't know the music or if you dislike shows where the audience claps along (and occasionally sings along).

    Quoting a reviewer at Yelp, it also "might not be the entertainment of choice for sensitive, conservative, Republicans." And if you're easily offended by sexual innuendo, go on Sunday afternoon when the jokes are all "G" rated.

    What's the Buzz about Beach Blanket Babylon?

    If you want to know what other folks have to say about the show, here's a roundup of some resources we found helpful:

    • In 2010, San Francisco Chronicle reviewer Robert Hurwitz gave his highest rating and a "Hats Off for steady musical laughs" review. Read the full review.
    • Tripadvisor reviewers (nearly 1,000 of them) give an average 4.5 out of 5, with comments like "Uproariously hilarious and extremely entertaining." The few who don't like it say it's too crowded, that the Snow White character whines too much - and they often complain about the political slant. Some say it's "perfect for the mainstream, tourist crowd," but not for them.  More Tripadvisor reviews
    • Yelp reviewers rate it slightly lower at 4 out of 5. More Yelp reviews

    Tips for Going to Beach Blanket Babylon

    • The show lasts about 90 minutes.
    • Restrooms are unisex, with completely private stalls but sharing a common sink area; don't be startled if you see someone of the opposite gender coming out the door as you're going in.
    • Unfortunately, the restroom is too small to handle a crowd all leaving at the same time. Go before the show and if it's feasible, wait until your next destination afterward.
    • Drinks - even the soft kind - can taste watered down. A glass of wine or beer may be a better choice - or for even more fun, get a glass of sparkling wine.
    • Drinks prices are average, but payment is cash only. You'll find an ATM near the corner of Green and Columbus if you need it.
    • Souvenir merchandise is well priced, and their book makes a nice souvenir.
    • Within each section of the theater, seats are not assigned. To get a good place to sit - or if you're going with several friends and all want to sit together, arrive about 45 minutes before the show starts.
    • The balcony staircase is long and narrow. If you have concerns, call the theater before buying your tickets.

    Tickets for Beach Blanket Babylon

    • Age Restrictions: People less than 21 years old not allowed during evening performances, but can attend weekend matinees. No infants any time. We think the young'uns should be at least 15 to enjoy it.
    • Prices: Vary by location in the theater, day of the week. Goldstar sometimes has discounts. Find out how that works in the guide to saving money with Goldstar.
    • Reserve online
    • Reserve by Telephone and for Accessible Seating: 415-421-4222

    All the Details about Beach Blanket Babylon

    Beach Blanket Babylon
    Club Fugazi
    78 Green Street
    San Francisco, CA
    Website

    You'll find half a dozen parking lots within a two-block radius of the theater. The Vallejo Street Garage at 766 Vallejo is clean and well lighted - and across the street from a police station, which makes it feel super safe. The only public transit option is the bus.

    As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary admission for the purpose of reviewing those services. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.