“It’s Christmas in Vegas,” Terry Fator sings, “and I feel fine.”
Good thing, too. December in the showrooms can feel more like the REM song “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).”
Other old-school entertainers — Donny and Marie Osmond, Human Nature — cut and run for the month. Other shows, such as “Legends in Concert,” squeeze in a Christmas song or two.
But Fator goes all in.
This is the third year the singing ventriloquist has offered a near-total makeover of his usual act during the holidays, an effort that would stand out even if it had competition.
The man does love Christmas, to the point of writing three original holiday songs (including that opener).
This year’s edition is inconsistent and seems to go on and on. But where else are you going to hear:
■ A bedazzled androgynous puppet singing “Jingle Bells” as Ethel Merman?
■ “The Dreidel Song” reworked as slinky Barry White disco?
■ “Silent Night” mashed up with the James Bond theme “Skyfall”?
As he told us up top, it’s Christmas in Vegas, folks.
Just as Vegas means different things to different people, Fator’s show tries to cover all the bases, from warm-and-fuzzy to slightly naughty.
Fator takes his inspiration from his TV-special memories of the 1960s. The set becomes his living room, and the puppet cast arrives one at a time by ringing the doorbell in TV tradition, which becomes a running gag of its own.
But, figuring he’s getting more rodeo cowboys and empty-nesters than families, Fator works in dope jokes and innuendo that would have tested a network’s standards-and-practices department back in Andy Williams’ day.
One gag becomes like a jazz riff, with each new puppet offering a variation on the news that Fator’s electric lawn Santa has a burned-out light, so it just spells “Ho.”
Fear not, there will come the Book of Luke nativity story, put in context as the one related by Linus in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
The scattered tone is spread even wider by a couple of red-state political jokes and Fator carrying over bits and pieces of his regular show, including the original “Heroes,” saluting the troops and first-responders.
But wait, there’s more. This year’s edition is billed as “A Country Christmas,” shoehorning in yet another twist: Fator’s cowboy puppet Walter has arranged this billing to attract National Finals Rodeo cowboys. So every 10 minutes or so mandates a country song (such as another Fator original, “Santa Is a Cowboy”). Or a video tribute to the “Hee Haw” cornfield jokes, featuring Fator’s wife and stage sidekick, Taylor Makakoa and dancin’ D.J. Ben Harris.
Still, there’s an overriding charm to tie it mostly together. The format becomes an unforced way to hear so many Christmas songs in so many styles and genres, from “Run Rudolph Run” to a Vegas version of Adam Sandler’s “The Hanukkah Song.” Even the introduce-the-band instrumental is a nod to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
And Fator pushes his always-impressive ventriloquism skills even more into the head-shaking realm of amazement by doing e-for-effort impressions of Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis and Cher.
The scattergun approach at least reflects a creative spirit, who is never content to lock down a show and phone it in. This limited run (through Dec. 31) offers a first look at a new puppet character, Makakoa’s buffet-bellied cousin Kani, making all concerned relieved there’s a Hawaiian Christmas song, “Mele Kalikimaka,” to give him a reason to be there.
But Christmas gives a couple of the other puppets, particularly the little turtle Winston, the chance to fulfill their maximum cuteness potential. And it’s Fator who emerges as the guy who is really enjoying himself here. The Christmas show may be a mixed bag of gifts, but he delivers them with that extra Santa sparkle.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.