After 45 years, Beach Blanket Babylon will take its final curtain call

Jo Schuman Silver gets emotional when she talks about the final curtain closing on Beach Blanket Babylon, a San Francisco icon and the country's longest running musical revue. 

"I never thought this would happen," she said. "I thought I would die in this theater, you know wonderfully, but I never though this show would close."  

But even still, Schuman Silver says its time.   She says she's known for a while.  For about three years.

"It was a feeling," she explained. "I told my cousin who is like my brother. I told him, I said, 'Clive you aren't going to believe this I'm going to cry.' I said it's different for me there. And it’s not fair for everybody. I feel differently I mean I still love the show but something is different." 

By the time she decided to tell the cast, she thought many of them knew.   But she was wrong.  "Yeah they were surprised." she admitted.  "I was so wrong I really thought a lot of people had an inkling."

But this show was never supposed to last this long.

"Six weeks. I have the poster at home that says six," Schuman Silver said.

This show was started by her late husband Steve Silver in 1974.   In an interview, he described the beginning saying "one night a bunch of us were out for dinner there was a guitar player. People were throwing coins at him and I said, 'Hey, let’s put some costumes on that.' I said [ let's see] if we can do an act see if we can make some money."  

That night they made 25 bucks and Beach Blanket was born.

From the beginning, Silver was hands on, gluing all the signature hats together himself and sketching his ideas and making them a reality on stage.  And so this show of snow white searching for her prince, was born.  It was wild and wacky and it changed, as the news of the day changed.  

And the world took notice.

Big names like Annette Funicello to Willie Brown participated in the show and the Queen of England and later Prince Charles and Camilla came to watch.  

For Jo Schuman Silver, the show brought her to her husband.  "The second I saw the show in '82 and the second I saw Steve, I said this show was written for me. Whoever this guy is, I didn't know who he was. But he was writing this show for me, I could get into this. And then I met him and then I stayed and then I got really involved in the show." 

It has become a lifelong love for her, and even after Silver died in 1995, she took the lead.

"It's not like Steve said, 'When I'm not here, you have to do x, y and z.' He never said that to me. He never told me what to do. He only said one of the performers will only be here for five more years that's the only thing he ever said to me about what to do with the show, it's just evolved its just so much fun to do."  

The show has always kept the "Steve Silver" sensibility but that means a lot of it changes, "it just constantly changes." She said,  "if something is in the news that day that we think the audience is going to care about we can get it into the show that night that's how good these people are.  You know, if I come up with an idea or someone else comes up with an idea and they say should we try it and I say let’s try it and we can get it into the show that night."

And the cast is like family.   So many of them have been here from the beginning.   They just didn't realize they would be here at the end.

"I thought to myself this will be a really good job for six weeks until I get a real job," said the former stage manager John Camajani.  He was hired by Silver in 1979, and after leaving life on a cruise ship and thought this job would be just temporary.  "Five years I actually had that in my head that I would be with the show for five years."

Those five years turned into four decades.  Camajani ended up being one of the longest serving theatrical stage manager in the country.

He just retired a few months ago.  And when he did, he never predicted this.   "Two or three weeks later Darren the stage manager called me and said I hope you are sitting down, we are closing the show and if I had been standing up I would have fallen down I was just as shocked as everyone else." 

Renee Lubin is philosophical about the end of the show.  "It was a lot of fun I met a lot of really incredible talented people played for some celebrities and we had a lot of fun here so I can't say it wasn't time well spent."

Beach Blanket has been home for her for the last 34 years and even now Lubin says she feels joy every night when she takes to the stage and sings.

"You know I think that's what they hired me for, but yeah I think I do sing in every costume." 

She auditioned for Beach Blanket Babylon before she even saw the show.    "I didn't get hired but three years later I got a call saying I'm having a private audition would you come and I said yes and that's how I got the job."  She thought it would also be a temporary, thinking it would be five years. "I actually had that in my head that I would be with the show for five years and right before my five year ended I met my husband he was in the audience."  

They fell in love and got married and had what she calls her Beach Blanket baby.

"I'm going to miss everything," says Lubin, "I love everything about the theater even the arguments all the stuff that goes back stage all of the happy the fun the joy the anger."

But Lubin and Camajani agree that more than two decades later you can still feel Steve in the show, which is something that Schuman Silver has always insisted on, she says "It really is Steve Silver's show.  It's his sensibility so when he left the show to me, I tried to keep it as much as his spirit as I can."

And so this is farewell.  There is a lot they don't know.   They don't know yet what will happen to all the costumes, and the sets but Schuman Silver says they are focused right now on making the final shows the best, saying "we owe them that plus it’s so much fun to do this show no one will be disappointed."

And Schuman Silver says even though this is the end, she believes, "something will happen something great happen because everything great happens in this show we've been very very lucky."