Constant change keeps show fresh for Fator


Don’t think you can just pay 10 bucks for the new DVD of Terry Fator’s Mirage show and save the other $65 on a show ticket because it’s going to be the same thing.

The ventriloquist is out of town this week promoting the new “Live in Concert” vid, including his third appearance on David Letterman today.

But when he starts back at The Mirage on Monday, it will be with the goal of making his show “about 75 percent to 80 percent different” by the time he marks his fifth anniversary at the hotel March 7.

“We’ve been working on it almost a year now, and started rehearsing about a month ago. So it’s a good year in already,” Fator says of the new material. “It’s a labor-intensive process but it’s a lot of fun.”

Fator is following the business model of stand-up comedians who begin to replace material in their live sets as soon as they’ve had an HBO special or home video release. But the ventriloquist always has been a restless spirit when it comes to swapping out jokes and songs for his puppet characters, and sometimes even the characters themselves.

“I have way too much nervous energy to sit back and do the same show for 20 years. I could never do that. I’d go out of my mind,” he says. “We’ll be laying on the beach on vacation and I’ll look at Taylor (Makakoa, his wife and stage assistant) and say, ‘Oh my gosh, this would be a great idea for a puppet.’

“And she’ll say, ‘Yes, that’s a good idea for a puppet. Write it down and forget about it until we’re done with vacation.’”

The video taped at The Mirage in October follows Fator’s first home release, “Live from Las Vegas,” in 2009. The new DVD is a Wal-Mart exclusive for 90 days, but it’s also available from Redbox and in digital formats.

Fator says there is no set schedule to his DVD releases, but in December he does plan to film the Christmas version of his show for his next video.

As his puppet characters become more ingrained, Fator says he can spend less time introducing them and more time creating a Muppets-like ensemble with a connecting theme. This time, his No. 1 puppet Winston the turtle has set his sights on conquering Hollywood, and the other characters are gunning to move up to the top sidekick position.

“The great thing about Hollywood is they never leave us with no material,” he says. …

Don’t give up your day job, they say. Especially when you play Frankie Valli in “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas.

But Graham Fenton double-booked himself two years ago in Los Angeles, so he had to find a way to balance the hit musical and a pop-rock band, A Million Pieces.

The band makes its Las Vegas debut on Monday at Vinyl inside the Hard Rock Hotel, promoting its EP “Supernatural.”

Fenton recruited two other rockers from Broadway shows to share the “Broadway Rocks Vegas” bill: Martin Kaye of “Million Dollar Quartet” and Justin Mortelliti fronting the stage band of “Rock of Ages.” Admission is $20 for the 10 p.m. show.

Singing with A Million Pieces “usually requires me taking vacation time (from “Jersey Boys”), so we’re very selective about the shows we decide to do,” Fenton says. (Though he shares the Valli role with Travis Cloer, both have to be there each night to understudy the one who isn’t singing.)

Fenton spent his college years training as an operatic tenor. But he ended up in “Jersey Boys,” first as a swing/understudy to Cloer and Rick Faugno when the musical was at the Palazzo, then in the lead role on tour.

He later landed in Los Angeles, where the band — which had established itself with a different singer — asked him to join.

“Right around the same time I said yes to the band, I also said yes to ‘Jersey Boys,’ ” when the producers asked him to return to Las Vegas after Faugno’s departure.

Until the ’80s-synth-pop leaning band gets the kind of break that would require a bigger commitment, Fenton and the rest of A Million Pieces share files over the Internet to record songs or create YouTube content. “It’s amazing what technology can do,” Fenton says. “The only time we get together is when we put on a show like this.”

Kaye, the piano man who plays Jerry Lee Lewis in “Million Dollar Quartet,” will perform originals from his two albums, after stepping back from his own work during the musical’s first year at Harrah’s Las Vegas.

“I probably could have done (outside) things the first year, but things take time to settle in,” Kaye says. A year of “Quartet” has “given me so much in the way of confidence and I’ve made so many friends.” Earlier this month, he performed his original “Reach My Goal” as part of Kristen Hertzenberg’s Cabaret Jazz band at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. …

Call this one “Upstairs, Downstairs … with Zombies.”

“Evil Dead the Musical” plans on Tuesday to move up one floor of the V Theater to a new show space, which will allow it to run more than its current two nights a week.

But don’t get all sentimental just yet. Friday and Saturday shows will remain in the ground-level room that’s the largest of the three spaces inside the V complex in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort.

That makes it the first show I can think of to move back and forth between two rooms.

“I kind of like the challenge,” producer-director Sirc Michaels says of the move which allows landlord David Saxe to schedule extra performances of his “Zombie Burlesque” on weekends, while giving Michaels a larger seating capacity for “Dead” on the weekends.

“When summer hits, that big room is not a bad thing to have,” he notes.

However, the two versions will be what Michaels calls “two intensely different styles. Not comedic styles, but production styles.”

The weekend edition — now called the “classic camp” version — blocks the view of the theater’s video wall with its set. The weeknight version in the new 200-seat theater will go all in on the video, with original footage to augment key sequences.

“It’s a smaller room but there’s more toys,” Michaels explains. Before too long, those who buy “splatter zone” tickets up front can expect to have blood rain down on them from the ceiling.

Your move, Celine.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.