Q&A: Terry Fator
Last month marked the 10th anniversary of Terry Fator’s award-winning show at The Mirage, and you only need to have seen it once to recognize the essential keys to his long-term success in Las Vegas—the sheer number of songs, jokes and charming characters packed into each production. Incredibly, Fator has renovated his show by adding even more of all three elements, accelerating the pace and bouncing between new musical and comedic impersonations. “I wanted to pull out all the stops and really, completely change the show,” he says. “I think I’ve probably changed it 14 or 15 times over 10 years but it’s always been a gradual process. About six months ago, I decided I wanted to go in a totally different direction.” That direction truly takes advantage of Fator’s unmatched skills as a ventriloquist and singer, focusing more on real-life celebrity characters like David Bowie, Willie Nelson, Justin Bieber, Stevie Wonder and more. Fator and I broke it all down so you’ll be well-prepared when you catch the new show in his eponymous theater at The Mirage at 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
You’ve been experimenting with adding characters and acts every year during your holiday show for some time now. Did that help inspire some of the changes?
Definitely. Last year I upped the number of characters because I wanted to see how it would work, how it would flow and how the audience would respond, and it was fantastic. It went over like gangbusters. I knew I was onto something.
What was the formula you discovered?
Instead of trying to take characters out, I’m doing shorter routines so I can get more characters and more impressions with shorter songs. I’m also doing a lot of song parodies and I’ve never really done that before. The show flows faster if you put the comedy and the jokes in the songs. And then I don’t have to have longer moments where I’m just talking and telling jokes.
You’re also combining characters in some really creative ways.
I do this crazy mash-up of “Rocket Man” and “Space Oddity” with Elton John and David Bowie and it’s just unbelievable, but there’s some real singing in there, too. And I put Willie Nelson in this year and he sings a song straight then does a parody song that always gets a laugh.
There’s a new Rat Pack segment and that always works on the Vegas Strip.
Absolutely. I’ve got Dean and Sammy, and Frank will be joining us later in the year. It’s been fantastic and I’m having so much fun going from one character to another and putting in new songs. I’ve had so many different people tell me this is the best show I’ve put together so far, and I’m so proud of that.
And you still have your own original characters in the show, like Winston the Impersonating Turtle, which helps make your show so attractive to families and younger people. Have you found the real-life characters resonate more with adults and older folks?
Exactly. Now just about every single kid in the audience is really into it because the puppets change so quickly, the routines change so quickly and there’s a lot of audio and video stuff going on behind me. I put the words to the song parodies up on the screen and there’s even some funny cartoons to go along with that. It’s never been a show for kids, but it’s certainly a show you can bring the kids to, but still written for the adult intellect.
How important is it for you to always keep it fresh?
The thing about me is I like to push myself. I’m not ever going to say, “I’ve done it!” I’m going to top myself next year and the year after that. I always want to push myself to that next level.