Beach Blanket Babylon Gets Summer Right

With the San Francisco skyline coming into sharp relief as your ferry approaches for docking, one can hardly blame you for thinking how closely this all resembles a hat designed for Beach Blanket Babylon.

Jo Schuman Silver

By Paul Duclos
Published: June, 2016

With the San Francisco skyline coming into sharp relief as your ferry approaches for docking, one can hardly blame you for thinking how closely this all resembles a hat designed for Beach Blanket Babylon. All the elements of the confection are there, of course, including our TransAmerica Building and the monolithic Bank of America. The jewel box we know as City Hall can also be seen looming just in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The tradition that began in 1974 continues to thrive, as we discovered at sold-out performances last month. Jo Schuman Silver, Steve Silver’s wife and handpicked successor, has kept Beach Blanket Babylon’s creative vision alive since 1995. Jo continues Steve’s dedication to charitable involvement through many philanthropic endeavors.

Under Jo’s leadership, Beach Blanket Babylon became the first American production ever to be presented at the BOC Covent Garden Festival of Opera and Music Theatre in London, England. Among other world leaders and celebrities, Jo has hosted Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, as part of their first official royal tour of the United States.

In 2002, Jo created the annual Steve Silver Foundation and Beach Blanket Babylon “Scholarship for the Arts,” giving Bay Area high school seniors an opportunity to pursue a higher education and their dreams.

In this exclusive interview, Ms. Silver shares some reflections and insights gathered over the years.

Bay Crossings: What recent costume or staging innovations have you introduced? 

Jo Schuman Silver: We are focusing on the 2016 Presidential election and every night we change lyrics based on what is happening in the news.  

BC: The band is really hot. How often do they have a full rehearsal? Any changes in personnel?

Silver: Our band is terrific and, with the daily changes, they’re rehearsing all the time.

BC: How does your group arrive at new themes and sketches? Is it improvised, or carefully plotted from the beginning? 

Silver: To be clear, nothing is improvised in the show. I am online all the time, reading everything from the New York Times to TMZ to the National Enquirer.  If I think something’s relevant and our audience will respond, it’s in the show that night. 

BC: Are there any sensitive issues and/or subjects that you will not address?

Silver: We will never make fun of anyone; we have fun with our characters. 

BC: Everyone on stage seems remarkably fit and energetic. Is there a physical conditional program in place?  

Silver: The cast are truly athletes. They are in great shape and are very disciplined.

BC: Have you ever regretted introducing a character that may have offended members of the audience?

Silver: No, because we’re very careful about who and what is put in the show. 

BC: Can you tell us about new talent and the auditioning process? Everyone sings and dances, correct?

Silver: All the performers are triple threats—actors, singers and dancers.  We hold auditions several times a year.  Anyone interested can check the site ( for dates and times.

BC: Can you share any special memories about your troupe?

Silver: Countless memories over 40-plus years.  They are like family; several have been working together for over 20 years.  

BC: Regrets must be few and far between, but is there anything you wished you had done differently with BBB?

Silver: I do wish Steve were here with me. No, honestly no regrets.  If there’s an issue, we solve it and move on.

BC: It is said that “millennials” have very short attention spans, so the pace of your shows seem to be ideal for this generation.

Silver: Ironically, Steve had a short attention span! We always say Beach Blanket Babylon is Steve Silver’s attention span and we continue that outlook today.

BC: Ferry commuters are generally reading something about world events and local news. Your audience seems to be made up of the same type. Do you agree?

Silver: Yes, everyone is very plugged in to what’s going on in the world.

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