Terry Fator at the Mirage is a cheeky, hilarious, and impressive argument for the rehabilitation of the hoary old art of ventriloquism.
MGM Resorts International
What happens if you win Season 2 of America’s Got Talent for singing with your mouth closed better than some stars sing with their mouths open? In addition to the $1 million cash prize, you might get a plum residency at the Mirage and a theater named after you. It’s a safe bet you would be the only singing ventriloquist to do so this century.
Yes, if you go to see Terry Fator at the Mirage Hotel and Casino, you will be seeing it in the Terry Fator Theater. Tickets start at $67, but consider splurging for VIP seating so you don’t have to watch the main event via jumbotron screen – the main event being Fator’s lips not moving as he … er, one of his puppets belts a verse and a chorus of a standard with shockingly good tone and articulation.
The show changes frequently as Fator, an unassuming Ricky Gervais lookalike, rotates in a cast of some 15-20 puppet characters. There’s Winston the Impersonating Turtle, who takes full credit for Fator’s Americas Got Talent win before singing Crying by Roy Orbison with impeccable warbling falsetto. Vikki the Cougar ﬂirts with male audience members half her age, lets slip a donkeylike laugh, and sings the Pussycat Dolls. Maynard Tompkins calls himself the world’s best Elvis impersonator, stalling and vamping to hide the fact that he doesn’t know any Elvis songs.
The puppets range in style from Howdy Doody traditional, to Sesame Street muppet, to Spitting Image terrifying. The show is mostly family-friendly … but honestly, I might have nightmares about Maynard Tompkins singing Aaron Neville (because he secretly doesn’t know any Elvis songs). Who saw Annabelle?
Fator himself is genial and non-threatening. He skates closest to the edge, though, with Julius, a soul-singer puppet who has raised many eyebrows for … being black. Well, it’s more than that – Julius makes fun of Fator for being a “cracker,” then tries to get oﬀ the hook from the gasping audience by telling them “Don’t look at me, he said it!” It’s a dizzying meta-joke and gets a big laugh … but he’s right. It really is a white guy projecting the kind of voice that was popular in the era of Blackface. As such, this might not be a show for the politically correct. Julius re-earns goodwill with stirring renditions of Marvin Gaye and the Platters. “He” deﬁnitely sings with soul.
Elsewhere in the show, Fator takes the stage in his own right, as an unlikely but eﬀective lounge crooner. He makes it look eﬀortless, deploying that light and magical voice without breaking a sweat, even keeping a few surprise costume changes under his sleeve. He’s an engaging stage presence, amiable and funny and very easy to like. The rougher edges of his show sail by, mostly delivered by his outlandish puppet alter-egos.
Fator asks for a volunteer late in the show, and things take a turn for the … diﬀerent. Fator dresses up his volunteer as a life-sized ventriloquist dummy, complete with an animatronic mask, the jaw of which responds to a remote control that allows Fator to project his act onto one of his audience members. If the puppet show sometimes felt like Annabelle, this part of the show smacks of The Purge. Hey, here’s a thing — Fator’s assistants are all scantily clad babes. Vegas will be Vegas.
Verdict: Despite unintentionally channeling a few horror movies, Terry Fator at the Mirage Hotel and Casino is a cheeky, hilarious, and impressive argument for the rehabilitation of the hoary old art of ventriloquism. That’s a herculean task, suited only for a performer as gifted and dedicated as Fator.