SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Beach Blanket Babylon, one of San Francisco’s most popular attractions and the city’s longest-running musical revue, is getting ready to close its doors for good at the end of the year.
The show is ready for its final curtain call at Club Fugazi Theater in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. The iconic show ends 45 years of political and pop culture satire featuring trademark hats that have mirrored the changing San Francisco skyline.
It featured characters ranging from President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Oprah and former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
After more than 17,000 performances, producer Jo Schuman Silver announced unexpectedly in April the time felt right to end (on a high note) the show her late husband, Steve Silver, created in 1974.
“It feels wonderful,” Schuman Silver said. “It really does feel good.”
But sadness is also sinking in for longtime actors like Curt Branom, who plays King Louis.
“I just want to hold onto every moment. I really do,” Branom said.
And what will he miss about playing the character of King Louis for the last 25 years?
“Oh, the freedom, the laughter, the joy, the complete irreverence to whatever is happening,” Branom mused.
The Beach Blanket Babylon storyline follows Snow White as she looks for love around the world. But the cast and crew will miss the fun of weaving in fresh material almost daily.
Former stage manager John Camajani says what Schuman Silver sees on the news one morning can end up on stage hours later.
“Most of the time it’ll work and we’ll have somebody rehearsed and costumed and hatted by that evening,” Camajani reflected.
Like when gay marriage became legal in San Francisco, Branom remembered, “When Louis sang, ‘I’m getting married in the morning. Ding, dong, it’s such a lovely day,’ that brought the house down.”
When Arnold Schwarzenegger declared his candidacy for governor, Branom recalled that they had the Terminator outfit all ready.
And in the 2000 election between Al Gore and George W. Bush, “that was like gold for us,” Branom said.
While the stage itself is small, 24 by 20 feet, it’s a lot smaller behind the scenes.
KPIX wasn’t allowed to try on the hats or touch the costumes, but Camajani did reveal that standing on a white line down the center of the room is the key to navigating the tight space.
Camajani said as long as the actors keep their feet on the white line and follow it over to the center mirror, they won’t bump into anything on the sides or over head.
And it’s controlled chaos as changing costumes must also be choreographed.
“My fastest change is from Buster Posey to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and I have about 45 seconds to do that,” Branom laughed.
So after the final curtain, what will happen to these signature hats, costumes and props?
Schuman Silver acknowledges receiving many invitations for the collection and will not yet disclose what will happen with it.
“It’ll be something really good and everybody will hopefully get a chance to see it together, how vast it is,” she promised.
Meanwhile, the cast and crew are counting up their blessings as they count down the final performances for the show that’s become part of the city’s identity.
“I’m going to miss the audience, I’m going to miss the moments of creativity and joy and humor,” Branom said.
“It’s almost like tearing down Coit Tower or getting rid of the Golden Gate bridge or the cable cars. It’s that iconic. Beach Blanket is a part of San Francisco,” said Camajani.
Beach Blanket Babylon added extra shows to accommodate all the people who wanted to see it one last time.
Tickets are all sold out.
For those lucky enough to have tickets, the last two shows on New Year’s Eve will be one-of-a-kind in the show’s history.