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February 25, 2018

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The Mirage:

Q+A: Terry Fator discusses holiday show, says ‘there’s nothing but pure joy at Christmas’


Christopher DeVargas

Terry Fator and Winston the Impersonating Turtle perform during the ceremonial opening of the Glittering Lights show at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012.

Terry Fator Fifth Anniversary at Mirage

Rick Harrison and Terry Fator at Fator’s fifth-anniversary celebration Friday, March 7, 2014, at the Mirage. Launch slideshow »

Terry Fator

With Christmas trees being lit and ice-skating rinks popping up on the Strip, you know that the holiday season is upon us. Even our familiar favorite shows and performers add a touch of yuletide to the stages.

For Mirage headline entertainer Terry Fator, his show becomes a major change from the normal when he throws out the old and brings in the new with an entirely different Christmas act.

It starts Monday with classic carols, his original “Christmas in Las Vegas” and this year’s holiday celebration with a touch of country flair. In the midst of this week’s rehearsals, Terry talked with me about the new, limited-run production that continues through Christmas Day.

“The day after Halloween, we take down our decorations and start putting up Christmas decorations. I’ve already got our Christmas tree up, our back yard is decorated for Christmas, and I’m almost done with my Christmas shopping. So that’s what kind of a Christmas nut I am!”

This is now your fourth year doing a special, separate holiday show, so what’s new that you didn’t do in the previous three?

Every year, we like to try to change it a little bit, so if you came and saw it last year, they can come again. It’s the same format, but a new take and new material. I had this idea that if I ever made it, I was going to do one of those old Andy Williams- or Bing Crosby-type television specials where they have a set that looks like a house and people drop by and, oh, look, it’s David Bowie, or, oh, look, it’s so and so.

They don’t want it on television, but since I’ve got my own show in Las Vegas, I’ll do a live version of it every year. We re-create one of those old-fashioned TV shows on my stage at the Mirage.

The last couple of years, we’ve actually been doing it more country because the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) is in town. I love country anyway and even have a country CD. So we tailor the Christmas show around Walter T. Airedale, my country character. He’s homesick for Kentucky. We feel bad for him, so we decided that we’re going to make the show country for him so that he feels a little more at home and he can feel like he’s getting a home country holiday.

We have Bing Crosby in the show, and of course he sings “White Christmas.” Do you remember when Bing Crosby sang with David Bowie? And I thought, “You know, why don’t we country it up?” So I had this new idea, Bing Crosby singing with Garth Brooks to do a country version, so it’s going to be kind of fun. That’s one of the new additions.

That’s going to be a little taxing on your throat at the same time.

Yes, absolutely. Yes.

How do you keep track of when Bing sings or when Garth sings, or do you just let them duke it out?

I’ve got to say that sometimes it can get a little confusing. The other day I was really tired because I hadn’t slept enough, and I do this Louis Armstrong Kermit the Frog song. Winston sings Kermit the Frog and I do Louis Armstrong, and Winston opens his mouth and starts doing Louis Armstrong. I was trying to figure out how to get it back on track so that he was singing Kermit.

Occasionally when I’m tired, I do get confused with the voices. We’re doing a lot of rehearsing, though. It really puts us in the Christmas spirit. We started rehearsing two weeks ago, and once we started rehearsing that Christmas show, boy I’m ready for Christmas. I just love it!

Mat Franco at Terry Fator

“America’s Got Talent” Season 9 winner magician Mat Franco with Season 2 winner and Mirage headliner ventriloquism impressionist Terry Fator and Maynard the Elvis impersonator on Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, at the Mirage. Launch slideshow »

Military Honors Terry Fator, Taylor Makakoa

Terry Fator and his wife, Taylor Makakoa, are honored by the military Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, at the Mirage in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Why is Christmas so special to you and your wife Taylor?

I think it’s just the way to always remember and think like a child. I don’t mean be childish, but being childlike. There’s such a wonderment in Christmas when you’re young. I just feel like you have to keep that wonderment no matter how old you get. You’ve just got to keep that childlike innocence and that childlike love of things.

I have a friend who says, “Oh my goodness, there’s so much stress at Christmas.” And I said, “There’s no more stress at Christmas than what you put on yourself.” You could make it all about just enjoying the holidays and eating yummy stuff and watching fun things about where ghosts come in and teach you about the true meaning of Christmas, or you can get all stressed out about the gifts.

What I’ve done with my family is just said, “Look, it’s not about gifts. I’ll get you something, but I’m not going to get everybody a bunch of expensive, crazy things. It’s about being together as a family and enjoying one another as a family. We’ve really taken the pressure off the whole gift giving.

I do all my shopping online so I don’t have to go out there and fight the crowds. So to me it’s pure joy. There’s nothing but pure joy on Christmas. I just don’t let family or friends stress me out about what I’m going to buy them. I think it’s just a choice you have to make, and I make that choice year after year.

This is now what year for you in Las Vegas?

We finished our fifth in February, so we’re in our sixth year now. We’re extended through September 2016 here at the Mirage, so I couldn’t be happier.

Do you have plans to stay on after that, or do you want to travel the show on the road?

I want to stay as long as Las Vegas will have me. I love playing Las Vegas. Las Vegas is my new hometown. I love it here. I don’t have any plans to leave. I love to travel, and I do travel. We travel pretty regularly on the weekends.

One of the reasons we worked out the deal with the Mirage is that I get my weekends off because it’s much easier to travel and book shows on the weekends. So I’m still able to do some traveling, and I just love it.

There’s a special spirit at this time of the year. Do you sense it with your audiences?

People want to just come out for an evening and just get into the Christmas spirit. Our show is the way to do that because I kind of make everybody a part of the family when they come to the show. We consider that theater our house, and we turn the stage into our living room.

People need to look at it as, “I’m just going to go over to Terry’s house” for Christmas. We have a little Christmas party right there onstage every single night. People are going to get a chance to sing along to some fun Christmas music and hear some jokes. You’re going to leave on a high loving the Christmas season.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

* * *

Terry Fator’s Christmas show at the Mirage is 7:30 nightly from Dec. 1-25.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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