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San Francisco's Effervescent Song & Dance
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You may very well think I'm exaggerating, but - honest -- I'm sure you'll never see anything quite like the very long-running musical revue, "Beach Blanket Babylon," in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood. Of course there are plenty of good reasons to visit San Francisco, but BBB, as it's known locally, would alone be reason enough.

How to describe it? That's tough, but let me try. The word, "effervescent," comes immediately to mind. Extravagantly costumed performers wearing fantastically detailed and outsized hats or equally outrageous hairdos bounce onto the stage, rapid fire, one after another after another. They sing and dance - and extremely well.

They lampoon and mimic with great accuracy the dozens of pop culture and political figures of the past and present that they portray. They utter ridiculous and often side-splitting puns and other words of wit and satirical wisdom. And most play several characters, dashing off stage for quick costume changes while the show goes on.

Just about every number is a show-stopper - maybe every number. The six-piece band, the dozen or so performers - and invariably the audience – generate infectious, high-level energy and laughter to a degree that I, at least, have rarely seen in many years of theater-going.

Oh, the plot. There is one, sort of. It's about Snow White searching the world for a prince who will be her true love, encountering the famous entertainers, politicians and others who take the stage non-stop to give her advice. I'd name them, except they might not make an appearance in the show you'd see, since the cast of characters changes regularly to keep up with current events, some that may have occurred just a few days beforehand.

Don't take just my word. Listen to former Secretary of State George Shultz - like me, a resident of the city: BBB "dazzles ... sparkles with wit. The cast is terrific."

Though I suppose he might be a little biased, San Francisco's mayor, Gavin Newsom, notes that the show has "for three decades been the 'must see' experience for San Franciscans and visitors alike ... a San Francisco landmark that promises to have you laughing ... and loving this city."

As for the essentials:

LOCATION
In Club Fugazi, at 678 Green Street aka Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard, between Powell and Stockton.

SHOW TIMES
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays at 7 and 10 p.m.
Sundays at 2 and 5 p.m.

Get there early, since the shows are almost always sell-outs or close to it and seating at the tables (for two or more) in the large downstairs sections and in the smaller and higher priced balcony sections is on a first-come, first-seated basis.

Be aware, too, that the club's liquor license requires patrons at evening shows to be at least 21. Drinks -- wine and beer only -- are reasonably priced, and you needn't buy any. Circulating servers ask you once, and
that's it. Say no and you're left alone.

TICKETS
$25 to $77, best ordered in advance by email at www.beachblanket.com or by phone at(415) 421-4222.

PARKING
Try to avoid it. The area is incredibly congested. You'd probably have a better chance of winning the lottery than finding street parking, and the area's garages charge in the double figures for just a few hour's stay. Try Municipal Railway bus No. 30 or the Mason Street cable car from downtown, or a cab.

DINING
It's North Beach, which means there are restaurants everywhere, most of them Italian, most of them excellent, many of them relatively inexpensive.

Copyright (c) 2006 Dick Meister