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It Is What It Is

August 3, 2009

Sometimes you just have to say "it is what it is."

This is what I told myself as I exited Club Fugazi in North Beach on Saturday night after having sat through Beach Blanket Babylon for the first time. The San Francisco theatrical institution -- a sort of kitsch-topical cabaret involving covers of famous rock tunes, cartoonish impersonations of famous people and huge, splendiferously-adorned hats, has been going for 35 years. There have been runs in London and Las Vegas. The San Francisco iteration of the show plays to packed houses twice a night most nights a week.

I have to admit that I'm baffled by the longevity and popularity of the show. I have nothing but admiration for the performers, who put so much energy and commitment into telling hackneyed jokes on such well-worn topics as the Clinton-Lewinsky affair and spoofing Elvis. They're a talented and highly professional lot. And the costumes and hats are certainly eye-catching. This is especially the case in the grand finale, when the show's diva, Val Diamond, comes on wearing a hat festooned with San Francisco landmarks (including a working cable car which actually chuffs its way past a model of the famous Painted Lady Victorian houses) that takes up almost half the length of the stage.

But, my God, the show is full of mind-numbing, lowest-common-denominator stuff. I had some fun and it's not as if the show's founder, Steve Silver, set out to create high art. He simply wanted to entertain people. But not all entertainments are that entertaining. I was so ready to leave after about 45 minutes.

By the rivers of Beach Blanket Babylon, there we sat down, and there we wept when we remembered how short life is to be wasting one's Saturday evening watching people dressed like lampshades imitating Barbra Streisand, John McCain and Oprah.

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