Being at “The Whale Fat Follies” on Tuesday night was a bit like attending Mr. Whitekeys’ wake – and the guy isn’t even dead.
Before and after the show, patrons kept coming up to the entertainer to say things like, “Thanks for all the good years” and “Thanks for the great memories.” And when Whitekeys introduced the show as “the farewell tour,” a number of groans and even some boos arose.
Despite the faint air of melancholy, a raucous good time was had during the two-hour show. As usual, the ensemble ran a tightly-paced, vaudeville-style mix of song, dance, slide shows (with just three bare backsides this time) and what Whitekeys calls “snotty political humor.”
Former President Obama was sarcastically “thanked” for the long waits at Snow City Café. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (Cameron Morrison) and his Deputy Chief of Staff, Amy Demboski (Regina MacDonald) sang a toe-tapping number called “Let’s All Cut the Budget” (“Let’s all cut the budget, it’s gotten way too high/No more snow removal, it’ll melt by next July…Cut five million, boy that’s fun/Voice mail answers 9-1-1…”).
Rep. Don Young (Morrison again) made a brief appearance to announce he’d be running for re-election (“Two more years, b—ches! I’m not going anywhere!”) as Whitekeys lamented that he’d been making fun of the dude for more than 30 years.
“I never thought you’d outlast us,” he said.
Then again, he never knew the Follies would last at all. Begun as a $5-per-ticket “experiment” back in 1985, the show (and its spinoffs) has run almost constantly since then. If you’ve been to a Whitekeys show before, then you know that drawing-room comedy this ain’t.
Haven’t been to one? This is your last chance. But if you can’t make your peace with a lot of cross-dressing photos or Elvis Presley dancing with a fish, stay home and let someone else have the ticket. The show won’t have any trouble selling out, because this ensemble knows what audiences want: song parodies, cheesy costumes, beautiful wilderness photos, frequent jabs at Alaskan weirdness and, of course, that snotty political humor.
The U.S. presidency is a case in point. Although considerably younger than the current Oval Office occupant, Morrison does an eerily good impersonation. He’s all squints and mouth-pursing and bloviating as he tells “Mr. Whiteman” about a plan to turn that concrete igloo near Cantwell into a yuge money-maker. The resulting song, “The Grope-A-Cabana,” managed to insult two other conservative political figures:
“Our friendly staff has a smilin’ face, we got Sheriff Joe Arpaio to design the place
“If dining alone is something you hate, our concierge, Roy Moore, can get you a date (and dinner won’t cost a lot ’cause she can order off the kids’ menu).”
While politicians are an obvious target, the show also swung regularly at dumb Alaskans, especially those who don’t know how to spell or how to keep autocorrect from messing up an ad (“Fly to Katmandu and other areas for bear viewing”). Citing a survey that said Alaska was the 46th least-educated state, the crew chanted, “What’s the problem? What’s the fuss? There’s four other states dumber than us!”)
A friend once described the show as being largely the same from year to year, yet always funny. A majority of Tuesday’s audience members were certainly primed to yell “Put it on!” for McDonald’s reverse striptease. And when photos of Alaska Railroad cars appeared onscreen some people moved their chairs back from the tables, hoping to join in the conga line that Whitekeys always leads through the audience.
It wouldn’t be “Whale Fat” without that routine, during which he plays a lightning-fast harmonica version of “Orange Blossom Special,” backed up by drummer Morgan Welch and bassist Patti Greene. Tuesday night’s conga line wove through the closely packed tables, with some dancers grinning and others appearing wistful. The Whitekeys train is finally, definitely leaving the station. But what a hell of a run it’s had.
THE WHALE FAT FOLLIES FAREWELL TOUR continues through Aug. 14 at the Hard Rock Café, 415 E St. Show time is 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Tickets are $23.50 and $28, available at CenterTix.com or by phone, 263-2787.