Our exposure to the singer/impersonator/ventriloquist was mostly restricted to those videos clip that incessantly play on TVs as we enter and exit the Mirage. And, it took the offer of a media invite to put us in a seat inside the comfortable Terry Fator Theater. With a menagerie of characters, Fator unflappably ventriloquizes and sings. First, as a vent act, he deserves all the praise you can muster. And, if you want to catch his lips moving, two very large screens to the side of the stage, zoom in for close-ups during his act.
As a singer, he possesses fine skills. We didn't realize his natural voice was in a high register so, ironically, it appears his male singer impersonations might be more difficult than his tributes to Cher or Barbra Streisand.
As a husband, he sure does enjoy introducing his model wife, Taylor. Repeatedly. You'll hear "my wife" more often than you'll hear him mention Winston the Turtle (one of his puppets). In this show, Taylor works as a kind of a Vanna White-type assistant. You'll either consider the fawning comments about her as endearing and charming praise, or smotheringly insecure.
It's one thing to be a ventriloquist, another to impersonate at the exact same time. Fator's skill in this matter allows him to bring Bing Crosby and Elvis to life. We realized that his repertoire of Middle of the Road singers allows him to switch out his usual songs and insert Christmas tunes for this show. Smart move. The band, to be brutal, an exceedingly un-stylish crew, are nevertheless very strong. A three-man brass section truly fleshes out the sound.
So how is the show? Odd. Many jokes are incredibly hokey and, to us, just not funny. It almost ventures into Lawrence Welk territory. But, we were in the minority. Fator has found his calling and true audience, and they nightly fill up the theater.
The "plot" of the show concerns finding the true spirit of Christmas for Winston the Turtle. A parable for kids, told by cute puppets. We saw zero children in the audience. An interesting phenomena. While the script name checks Justin Bieber, it'll be Johnny Mathis you'll hear from the stage. Again, the demographic is older than we imagined.
Fator knows the value of his act. A video played before the show goes all out to persuade you from taping it for YouTube. But, photographs are encouraged. Smart move. An audience participation piece lured a man up on stage to dress up as Dolly Parton and brought down the house. Smart... We later talked to this gentleman and his family and they couldn't have been more delighted by this highlight of their vacation.
The Fator stage resembles a fantasy dream set suitable for "Match Game 77." And, if you understand that reference, you'll catch every joke or pop culture mention. Think Rich Little, but for the Boomer generation. Fator knows his audience. His reference point for this particular show is the Bing Crosby and Andy Williams Christmas specials of yore. If you understand that...
Most of his usual characters permeate this special. Vikki the Cougar. Julius the Soul Singer. We were very surprised to encounter Dougie the Stoner. All drug jokes, all the time. And, some of the gags are racier than we expected. Berry Fabulous, the flamboyant singer inspires much gay innuendo.
While we weren't turned into a firm Fator fan, we can't but help admire his technical skills. And, if you're already a fan of his work, you'll find much to enjoy. Many around us were enraptured and sang along with his songs. Fator also received a more genuine, impromptu standing ovation than we witnessed at Zarkana. Another surprise on the night.
A Very Terry Christmas plays at the Mirage until December 24. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. No performances Sunday or Monday. Ticket prices range from $74.93 to $173.93.