TERRY FATOR & HIS CAST OF THOUSANDS – Terry Fator Theatre at the Mirage Hotel – Las Vegas Theater Review

by Tony Frankel on November 10, 2010

in Theater-Las Vegas

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FATOR LEAVES AN IMPRESSION THAT MAY NOT BE FOR EVERYONE

What you think about Terry Fator, the astoundingly talented ventriloquist in residence at The Mirage, may depend on what type of audience member you are politically, socially, or culturally. Fator’s injection of conservative ideals into what is already a fairly squeaky-clean entertainment may make some people feel right at home, while others may feel alienated by his mawkish display of American Family Values.

Fator always dreamed of being a headliner in Vegas, but unlike Danny Gans (the impressionist who resided in this theatre prior to his untimely death), Fator’s meteoric rise came courtesy of television, namely winning the million-dollar first prize on America’s Got Talent. People love to see people they’ve seen on television. Based on the fact that the house was packed on a weeknight, while other Vegas shows are not faring so well, one can only surmise that television is what had this throng already familiar with Fator and his dummies (or “puppets” for those who think I am referring to AGT’s adjudicators Sharon Osbourne, David Hasselhoff and Simon Cowell), and Terry Fator & His Cast of Thousands feels like a 1970s television special that had to mind its Ps and Qs lest it offend the censors.

Fator’s celebrity status was unknown to me, so I was fascinated that the mostly middle-aged crowd went wild watching the pre-show DJ Ben Harris show off his superlative dance moves. True, Harris is entertaining, but the energetic enthusiasm in the house would make you think that the Pope was about to give a rock concert. Coincidentally enough, Fator’s blend of familiar rock-star riffs and religious references gave this crowd the next best thing.

That Fator can hold your attention for 90 minutes is proof of his supernatural flair for ventriloquism and impersonation: he shows off his vocal dexterity especially well with Wrex, a crash-test dummy who sings snippets of automobile-themed songs; the slow-burns and double-takes of Maynard Thompson (the Elvis impersonator that doesn’t know any Elvis tunes) prove that some old-fashioned patter and sight gags can be very funny, and his full-on Michael Jackson is actually a thriller, made all the more funny because Fator looks like Weird Al Yankovic.

The show is at its best when it moves closer to the realm of bawdy, as it does with his puppet Vikki the Cougar, an eternal 49-year-old who prefers men ages 21 – 24, but Fator pulls back on the blue humor. This may be due to his code of ethics, but it feels like he is playing it safe with an audience that, for the most part, will head out the theatre doors to drink and gamble.

Simon Cowell called Fator one of the two most talented people on the planet, a declaration that is questionable at best. I’m wondering what planet Cowell refers to (planet “Hollywood” no doubt). Fator is indeed multi-talented, especially in the art of ventriloquy and impressionism (the man even yodels as well as the recording you hear outside the Matterhorn at Disneyland), but Fator’s own singing voice is purely non-distinctive, innocuous country.

Just when I thought that this inoffensive vaudeville-act-turned-superstar would be surprisingly tolerable, Fator turned the tables on me. He began to sing a country tune with a state-fair twang that sounded like any country singer – especially one who is impersonating Terry Fator impersonating any country singer at a state fair. (Hey, isn’t it enough that I admired his yodeling?) The song, which he himself wrote, is “Are there Horses in Heaven?” about a six year-old boy dying of cancer…

Are there horses in heaven?
Can we ride them to the stars?
Will they take us up to Jesus
And drop us off in his arms?

…and it truly is the most treacle-ridden country clap-trap imaginable. Even though I heard sniffles from some in the audience, I couldn’t help shake the “ick” factor – that same spine-gripping trepidation that occurs when a Jehovah’s Witness approaches my door. Fator calls his song “beautiful,” but the construction is clunky and the songwriting is lazy (he rhymes “stars” with “arms,” and “came” with “explain”).

Then “oohs” and “aahs” came from the audience when Fator announced that proceeds from sales of the record go to a children’s charity (I must say, though, that he got more “oohs” when he gave his fans permission to record the show). Soon thereafter, the great philanthropist asked people from the military to stand up; he thanked them and announced that sales of Fator merchandise will go to veteran’s charities. Is it just me, or does it make you apprehensive when a celebrity wears his generosity on his sleeve? It’s not that I doubt Fator’s sincerity, but doesn’t true giving involve not telling people how giving you are?

Who says there are no second chances for a first impression?

Now back to the entertainment, please. And entertain us he does, with an inspired segment involving an old, bald volunteer who is dressed up in a Cher-puppet outfit which has a remote-controlled mouth operated by Fator, who then uses the poor guy for a Sonny and Cher duet that is positively uproarious.

But it’s too late for me. Yes, I’m bowled over by his talent (and the hottest band around), but not the show as a whole. Trust your instincts on this one. There are people like my mother (who is not the Sarah Palin-lovin’ type), who will have a hoot with the entire Fator fun fest. Harmless entertainment like this might just give you the warm fuzzies.

Speaking of hot, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the astonishingly sexy assistant and puppet-retriever, Taylor Makakoa. Thank God that she isn’t considered offensive. I wonder if there are there big-chested, sex-kitten models in heaven.

tonyfrankel @ stageandcinema.com

running indefinitely at time of publication
for tickets, visit http://www.mirage.com/entertainment/terry-fator.aspx

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TERRY FATOR & HIS CAST OF THOUSANDS – Terry Fator Theatre at the Mirage Hotel – Las Vegas Theater Review

FATOR LEAVES AN IMPRESSION THAT MAY NOT BE FOR EVERYONE

What you think about Terry Fator, the astoundingly talented ventriloquist in residence at The Mirage, may depend on what type of audience member you are politically, socially, or culturally. Fator’s injection of conservative ideals into what is already a fairly squeaky-clean entertainment may make some people feel right at home, while others may feel alienated by his mawkish display of American Family Values.

Fator always dreamed of being a headliner in Vegas, but unlike Danny Gans (the impressionist who resided in this theatre prior to his untimely death), Fator’s meteoric rise came courtesy of television, namely winning the million-dollar first prize on AMERICA’S GOT TALENT. People love to see people they’ve seen on television. Based on the fact that the house was packed on a weeknight, while other Vegas shows are not faring so well, one can only surmise that television is what had this throng already familiar with Fator and his dummies (or “puppets” for those who think I am referring to AGT’s [ALL CAPS AND ITAL] adjudicators Sharon Osbourne, David Hasselhoff and Simon Cowell), and TERRY FATOR & HIS CAST OF THOUSANDS feels like a 1970s television special that had to mind its Ps and Qs lest it offend the censors.

Fator’s celebrity status was unknown to me, so I was fascinated that the mostly middle-aged crowd went wild watching the pre-show DJ Ben Harris show off his superlative dance moves. True, Harris is entertaining, but the energetic enthusiasm in the house would make you think that the Pope was about to give a rock concert. Coincidentally enough, Fator’s blend of familiar rock-star riffs and religious references gave this crowd the next best thing.

That Fator can hold your attention for 90 minutes is proof of his supernatural flair for ventriloquism and impersonation: he shows off his vocal dexterity especially well with Wrex, a crash-test dummy who sings snippets of automobile-themed songs; the slow-burns and double-takes of Maynard Thompson (the Elvis impersonator that doesn’t know any Elvis tunes) prove that some old-fashioned patter and sight gags can be very funny, and his full-on Michael Jackson is actually a thriller, made all the more funny because Fator looks like Weird Al Yankovic.

The show is at its best when it moves closer to the realm of bawdy, as it does with his puppet Vikki the Cougar, an eternal 49-year-old who prefers men ages 21 – 24, but Fator pulls back on the blue humor. This may be due to his code of ethics, but it feels like he is playing it safe with an audience that, for the most part, will head out the theatre doors to drink and gamble.

Simon Cowell called Fator one of the two most talented people on the planet, a declaration that is questionable at best. I’m wondering what planet Cowell refers to (planet “Hollywood” no doubt). Fator is indeed MULTI-talented, especially in the art of ventriloquy and impressionism (the man even yodels as well as the recording you hear outside the Matterhorn at Disneyland), but Fator’s own singing voice is purely non-distinctive, innocuous country.

Just when I thought that this inoffensive vaudeville-act-turned-superstar would be surprisingly tolerable, Fator turned the tables on me. He began to sing a country tune with a state-fair twang that sounded like any country singer – especially one who is impersonating Terry Fator impersonating any country singer at a state fair. (Hey, isn’t it enough that I admired his yodeling?) The song, which he himself wrote, is “Are there Horses in Heaven?” about a six year-old boy dying of cancer…

ARE THERE HORSES IN HEAVEN?

CAN WE RIDE THEM TO THE STARS?

WILL THEY TAKE US UP TO JESUS

AND DROP US OFF IN HIS ARMS?

…and it truly is the most treacle-ridden country clap-trap imaginable. Even though I heard sniffles from some in the audience, I couldn’t help shake the “ick” factor – that same spine-gripping trepidation that occurs when a Jehovah’s Witness approaches my door. Fator calls his song “beautiful,” but the construction is clunky and the songwriting is lazy (he rhymes “stars” with “arms,” and “came” with “explain”).

Then “oohs” and “aahs” came from the audience when Fator announced that proceeds from sales of the record go to a children’s charity (I must say, though, that he got more “oohs” when he gave his fans permission to record the show). Soon thereafter, the great philanthropist asked people from the military to stand up; he thanked them and announced that sales of Fator merchandise will go to veteran’s charities. Is it just me, or does it make you apprehensive when a celebrity wears his generosity on his sleeve? It’s not that I doubt Fator’s sincerity, but doesn’t true giving involve NOT telling people how giving you are?

Who says there are no second chances for a first impression?

Now back to the entertainment, please. And entertain us he does, with an inspired segment involving an old, bald volunteer who is dressed up in a Cher-puppet outfit which has a remote-controlled mouth operated by Fator, who then uses the poor guy for a Sonny and Cher duet that is positively uproarious.

But it’s too late for me. Yes, I’m bowled over by his talent (and the hottest band around), but not the show as a whole. Trust your instincts on this one. There are people like my mother (who is not the Sarah Palin-lovin’ type), who will have a hoot with the entire Fator fun fest. Harmless entertainment like this might just give you the warm fuzzies.

Speaking of temperatures, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the astonishingly sexy assistant and puppet-retriever, Taylor Makakoa. Thank God that she isn’t considered offensive. I wonder if there are there big-chested, sex-kitten models in heaven.

tonyfrankel @ stageandcinema.com

running indefinitely at time of publication

for tickets, visit http://www.mirage.com/entertainment/terry-fator.aspx

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