Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 | 9:15 p.m.
We kind of take Terry Fator for granted around here, sometimes forgetting that he is one of the most successful performers in his craft of all time. That craft, of course, is ventriloquism, and Fator has carved quite an empire on the Strip with his little wooden friends.
Fator’s longevity in Las Vegas came up as I spoke with him and his new bride, Angie, on Saturday night at the Lake Las Vegas Hilton. I’d not yet met Angie, and Terry himself is not far from his first meeting with his new wife, either, as they were introduced at a fundraising event in Dallas in April.
Angie is a chef who owns a catering company that was working the event; Fator is what we call a “fan” of catering.
We made the introductions; I made my requisite wedding-night crack, “You guys look nice. Plans later?” I tried to rewind the entire time I’d known Terry. I wound up remembering his opening at the Las Vegas Hilton in December 2007. That was so long ago that the Star Trek: The Experience and “Menopause The Musical” were still hotel attractions, and the Hilton was still called the Hilton.
“That’s like, what, six years ago?” I joked to Terry. “It’s eight!” he said laughing back. “Can you believe it? I never dreamed of this.”
Over the years, we’ve seen Fator, today age 50 and thrice married, take over the theater originally occupied by Danny Gans at the Mirage and roll up an impressive, unbroken headlining run on the Strip. Only Gans and Fator have ever starred as resident performers in that theater since it was opened in 1999. Fator has always evolved the show, trotting out scores of new characters. Some are more appealing than others, naturally (don’t take that personally, Barry Fabulous).
The tenor and, especially, humor, of Fator’s show have been honed through years of rehearsal and repetition. Duggie Scott Walker is always stoned just enough, and Vicki the Cougar is sultry without coming across as slutty. The arrival of Julius, the puppet who reminds of Marvin Gaye and Nat King Cole, is somewhat jarring, but Fator’s soulful singing makes even that odd-fitting character palatable.
Fator walks that fine line effectively. It’s no accident that since he opened at Mirage in 2008 a whole host of production shows, headliners and would-be stars have melted away as country bumpkin Walter T. Airdale and addled Elvis impressionist Maynard Tompkins blithely live on.
Fator’s Christmas show “A Very Terry Christmas” — and it is Christmas, not holiday, as he says from the top — is an annual rite that has been obviously tossed together in fast fashion (the man had a wedding, and an encore wedding, to help organize, after all). Sound cues were off in the second performance of the Christmas show Tuesday night, and Fator’s usual flawless delivery of a deceptively complex script misfired a few times.
When a doorbell sound cue arrived several seconds late, he chimed in with, “Well, I’m working with dummies!” Fator is one who can get away with that line, too.
But the most remarkable facet of this show, which will likely carry over to Fator’s post-Christmas production, is the inclusion of Angie in the act. She’s right there onstage, part of the cast and carrying puppets to her awaiting hubby, similar to the role Fator’s ex, Taylor Makakoa, played for years in the show (of course, Taylor was first his assistant, then his wife).
As caterer-turned-Las Vegas entertainer, Angie is an appreciably good sport. At one point early in the show, Terry professed to lose track of the Kermit-esque Winston the Impersonating Turtle. From off-stage, Angie offered to fill in and turned up in full turtle costume.
That’s dedication, folks.
But Terry had shown his devotion nights earlier with a lavish wedding celebration whose entertainment — “America’s Got Talent” runner-up comic Drew Lynch, Frankie Moreno and members of the Lon Bronson All-Star Band — topped most ticketed shows in Las Vegas. This was a wedding that had a 20-minute intermission — for a fireworks show high above Lake Las Vegas. The bride had so many gown changes, you risked losing track of them all (I believe it was three, total).
But what the heck. Shoot the works. Welcome to (Barry) Fabulous Las Vegas, where wearing three formal gowns on Saturday and a turtle suit on Tuesday makes perfect sense. It was a memorable, weeklong run for the Fators, their friends and family.
Certainly, we were reminded that this is what it’s like to be wed to a headliner on the Strip. And the ventiloquial genius Terry Fator ends 2015 in a far different place, emotionally, than where he started. Today, he’s where he should be: At the family estate at the Mirage, where the cast rotates, but the star is forever unflappable.