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Cabaret Review (Las Vegas): Terry Fator at the Mirage

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I think every person is at one time or another taken in by puppets. Many of the children’s shows we followed as kids featured puppets whose adventures we eagerly followed. Sesame Street, despite what Mitt Romney may believe, is quintessentially American; these puppets helped us learn and to face the world. The magnificent Terry Fator takes puppetry to a whole new level.

Fator burst on the scene in the second season of America’s Got Talent. When he walked on stage, judge David Hasselhoff exclaimed, “Oh no, a ventriloquist.” But before it was all over Fator had won a million dollar prize and after some time ended up with a $100 million contract to appear nightly at the Mirage in Las Vegas. Simon Cowell said, “ You are one of the top two entertainers on the planet.”

The secret to Fator’s success is multifaceted. First, he is a comedian and knows how to tell a joke and shape a story. Next, he is a brilliant ventriloquist, capable of doing over 100 ventriloquial impersonations using 16 different puppets. Last but not least, he is a terrific singer. When he is not singing as Garth Brooks, Etta James, Dean Martin, James Taylor, Nat King Cole, or Marvin Gaye – impressions that are spot on – he has a good voice in his own right. Later this year he is, in fact, releasing a CD of his own, as himself, called Horses in Heaven, named for a moving song he now includes in his Vegas show.

So who are you liable to see at a Terry Fator Show? There’s Walter T. Airedale, a country singer; Winston, the Impersonating Turtle (one of his most endearing creations); Maynard Tompkins, an Elvis impersonator who doesn’t know any Elvis songs; Julius, an African American puppet soul singer and one of my favorites; Johnnie Vegas, a lounge singer in true Vegas style; and Dougie Scott Walker, Fator’s annoying neighbor who loves heavy metal. One of Fator’s best bits is to take an audience member on stage, dress him like Cher, and sing a duet with the guest as Sony Bono, using a remote controlled mask.

Terry Fator should be in Vegas for years to come, His shows continue to get standing ovations. In his spare time, Fator is active in many charities, and even provides scholarships for aspiring puppeteers. He is always creating new characters and refining his act. I understand he has a special Christmas show as well. Terry Fator appears nightly at the Mirage. If you can get tickets, this is one of the shows to see in Vegas.

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