Terry Fator Opens In His Own Theater In Las Vegas

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The Las Vegas Strip has been kind of scary these days. Gaming receipts are w-a-a-a-y down, building projects halted and the shell of the construction left standing and shows closing — quite literally — overnight. It's as if a magician is ruling the universe, making things disappear willy-nilly. But, Saturday night at the Mirage Hotel and Casino there was a bright spot.

That beacon of light was Terry Fator. The winner of season two of America's Got Talent took over the Danny Gans Theatre (why do they always spell "theatre" like they're in Britain?) so it is now the Terry Fator Theatre with Terry Fator and His Cast of Thousands. Gans, incidentally, has moved to the new Danny Gans Theatre at Steve Wynn's Encore.

For talent, on a scale of 1 to 10, Fator gets an 11. He is sublimely gifted and his characters — which in lesser hands would merely remain "dummies" — are living things. He's the best ventriloquist going and actually makes that skill watchable again. He's a good writer and a charming, engaging stage presence.

He introduces his cast of characters — Winston the Impersonating Turtle (who levitates and informs the audience, "I just saved you $100. Now you don't have to see Criss Angel."), country singer Walter T. Airdale, Maynard the Elvis Impersonator, Julius the Soul Singer, Vicky the Cougar, Rocker Dougie the Annoying Neighbor and Emma, who opens the show with a perfect performance as Etta James singing At Last.

It is in that moment when you realize your hesitation about seeing this show was for naught. Fator is immensely talented. As it is said that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did except she did it backwards and in heels, so Fator does so much that others do and he does it with his mouth closed. (He says, "If Elvis sang with his mouth closed he might have sounded like me")

If we were rating shows on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd have to give Fator an 8, taking away points for two missteps. First, a long, long routine about Michael Jackson. It's old news, it's just not funny. Second, a very short mention of politics. When Julius — the only black character — comes on, Fator notes that he looks happy. Julius replies that's because there's a black man in the White House. Julius goes on to say that Fator looks unhappy and pale. "That's because there's a black man in the White House," Fator (as himself) replies. He may feel that way but, while many in the audience applauded this racism, others were clearly uncomfortable.

In the scheme of things, those two flaws are easily fixed.

The big surprise at the opening was Lou Ferrigno. The Incredible Hulk proved he's a good sport. Fator brought him onstage from the audience and tarted him up — with puppet mask and Bob Mackie-style gown — as Cher and, donning a Sonny Bono costume, Fator did both voices for I Got You Babe.

April will bring the opening of Peepshow to Planet Hollywood and May will see The Lion King open at Mandalay Bay. Otherwise — with the exception of Paul McCartney re-opening The Joint at the Hard Rock in April — Las Vegas is a quiet place. Terry Fator is most welcome welcome.

The show was a smash. The audience loved it and it should prove a bright spot in today's bleak Las Vegas entertainment landscape. It's not a kid's show but the few who were there seemed to enjoy it and the 7:30 starting time makes it doable for children. Adult or child, it's certainly worth checking out.

Terry Fator and His Cast of Thousands runs Tuesday through Saturday, 7:30 pm. Tickets are $59, $79, $99 and $129. They are available at http://mirage.com/entertainment/terry-fator.aspx or by calling the box office, 702-792-7777 or 1-800-963-9634, 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., (PST) daily.


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From This Author Ellen Sterling