Arts and Entertainment

Mostly new ‘Whale Fat Follies’ pokes fun at president and revives old favorites

  • Author: Donna Freedman
  • Updated: June 21, 2017
  • Published June 21, 2017

Mr. Whitekeys, pictured here on stage at Tap Root Public House on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, has been producing the Whale Fat Follies on and off since 1986. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch)

You may have seen the ads promising an all-new "Whale Fat Follies." That's at least 90 percent true. While some of the featured routines were performed in the past, it was the very distant past — only a real sourdough or sourdette would remember them. (This superannuated reviewer did.)

However, they've been rewritten to reflect the high-tech, selfie-snapping, reality-television world in which we live. Anybody remember a 1999 number called "I Like Livin' in the Last Frontier"? This time around it's warbled by Kim Kardashian (Regina McDonald) and Caitlyn Jenner (Cameron Morrison) and the words are very different. For example, back in the 20th century no one sold marijuana in jars. (Legally, anyway.)

The new routines are both slyly satirical and cheerfully vulgar, and make for a pretty darned funny evening of vaudeville-style entertainment. Not that everyone was laughing on opening night. Some audience members seemed tight-jawed whenever Donald Trump's name came up — and the 45th president was mentioned even more often than that 17-foot python that went missing out in the Valley.

Morrison did an over-the-top (yet somehow eerily exact) impression of the 45th president of the United States, preening and barking and steepling his fingers. He wasn't the only White House resident being roasted: McDonald's sleek, pouty impression of the first lady was spot-on as she sang lyrics like, "I posed for Playboy and showed you my rump — that's why the lady is a Trump."
The presence of new numbers as well as old-new stuff ("Devil In A Blue Tarp," "Every Day I Read The News," "Let's Go On A Road Trip," "Blue Tarp Blues") made for a satisfying evening of entertainment. At times the music overwhelmed the lyrics, blunting their effect. No doubt this was an opening-night glitch that will be remedied.

McDonald and Morrison also teamed up as "the Conway Sisters" (Kellyanne and Smellyanne), singing a five-song medley of songs like "Tweetin' Donald" (to the tune of "Rockin' Robin"), "Fake News" ("Footloose") and "The Grope-a-cabana." Once again, not everyone was amused but a good portion of the nearly sold-out crowd howled with laughter.

The show is still peppered with some "Whale Fat" standards, ones that people would miss if they disappeared: "Fishita," the reverse-striptease and "The Woolly Mammoth." There's also the Alaska railroad instrumental, during which Mr. Whitekeys dragoons audience members into a conga line. (Could be worse: Sit too close to the front and you may wind up getting a table dance from McDonald, and be guilted into putting money into her hip waders.)

The familiarity of certain bits — to the point where some viewers sing along — is what many people seem to cherish about this and other Whitekeys shows. Even though they know all the words to "Houseguests From Hell" and "Don't Let Me Go Alone To Costco," the numbers continue to amuse. They also know that, mid-tango, Fishita's tail will whack Elvis in the crotch, yet they still laugh like loons when The King sings his next lines in a pained falsetto.

Drummer Morgan Welch and bassist "Salmon" Patti Greene ably supported Mr. Whitekeys, who as usual plays keyboards, accordion and harmonica. You should also watch the guy sitting to the left of the stage and running the slides. Jamison Morrison is like Teller of Penn & Teller fame — voiceless, yet very expressive. He sings a little backup, but mostly he entertains with his silent reactions to the mayhem onstage.

Note: There won't be any "Follies" in 2018. Mr. Whitekeys is taking next summer off. If you're a fan, get yourself downtown. Or at least send your houseguests from hell.

THE WHALE FAT FOLLIES continues through Aug. 16 at the Hard Rock Cafe, 415 E St. Showtime is 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (no show on July 4). Tickets are $22.50 and $27, available through centertix.net. (907-263-2787)

Donna Freedman, a former Anchorage Daily News reporter and reviewer, blogs at DonnaFreedman.com.