Note: After nearly five decades, Beach Blanket Babylon gave its final performance at the end of 2019. We're leaving this review up for visitors who might not have heard that news yet.
The longest-running musical revue in America, and by far one of the most “San Francisco” things to do, this beloved cabaret-style show—playing since 1974—continues to be a riveting 90-or-so minutes of hilarious and outrageous costumes, bawdy humor, campy sexual flirtation, and political and cultural commentary.
The show’s name doesn’t describe what you’ll see, except possibly the “Babylon” part; it’s left over from its debut incarnation, when the theater was filled with sand and audience members had their hands slapped with Coppertone lotion. Some 16,000-plus performances and 6-million-plus tickets later, the show’s toothless political commentary and mild sexual innuendo hit just the right spot for a hilarious evening out. Everything about it is pleasingly silly, from the plots to the songs (mostly radio standards in 1-minute bursts) and the impersonations (Donald and Melania Trump, Vladimir Putin, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Steve Bannon, and Taylor Swift recently made appearances). The show’s main claim to fame, besides its longevity, are its huge wigs and hats, as tall as the proscenium will allow. The climactic bonnet, an illuminated and mechanized city skyline, requires a hidden scaffolding to support. There’s a family-friendly option on Sunday afternoons, though the content is still mildly eyebrow-raising (much to the delight of my [‘]tween daughter, who loves this show as much as I do). Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 8pm, Friday and Saturday at 6 and 9pm, and Sunday at 2 and 5pm; check the website for additional Tuesday shows in July.