Taking Chances

I've always been the guy in the background," says Bill Fayne. "Now, suddenly, I'm stepping out and really enjoying it."

Best known until recently as Clint Holmes' musical director, Fayne now is spending more time at the helm of the Las Vegas Tenors, the "popera" vocal quartet he formed with three other guys also more used to being more anonymous working musicians.

What started as a late-night gathering at the Bootlegger Bistro now faces a watershed challenge: two nights in the main theater of the Las Vegas Hilton today and Saturday.

"We're taking a huge chance," Fayne says. "We have a lot of seats to fill and slowly but surely we seem to be doing it." Pulling it off would be a major step in the Tenors' transition from locals' favorite to commercially viable act in the tourist corridor.

Everything seems to be coming together at once for Fayne, who started the group with Teddy Davey, Bobby Black and Mark Giovi.

In June, Fayne and Holmes -- with whom he is soon to celebrate 30 years of collaboration -- unveiled their original theatrical musical "Just Another Man" at UNLV. While revising the title for a potential engagement in England, the two found time last month to put together a quickie acoustic show for a limited run at the Excalibur.

Fayne also staged an informal musical biography of his own 45 years in show business for a recent packed house at the Bootlegger. He recounted tales from his days as musical director for Ann Jillian, Suzanne Somers and Kathie Lee Gifford.

Amid all that, writing and orchestration continued for the Tenors' big Hilton showcase with a seven-piece band and eight-piece string section. "We really have devoted ourselves to planning this the whole summer," Fayne says.

"In the past, we've just kind of done what we do kind of organically. But this is a really big deal for us. We have to maximize this opportunity. How many thousands of singers would want to be a headliner in Las Vegas? We're some of the rare few that get to do it."

The Tenors already are the toast of Sun City Summerlin, turning heads at the Suncoast last year with their ability to repeatedly pack in retirees hungry for an act doling out equal measures of classic Vegas, PBS pledge-week specials and vintage Lawrence Welk.

This weekend's shows will include a Rat Pack medley and a new song Fayne co-wrote with recently deceased songwriter Ron Miller, performed as a tribute to him. Fayne also notes that orchestrations written for the weekend shows can now be used to pitch the group for symphony or pops concerts in other cities.

The earliest Tenors shows borrowed heavily from classical crossover stars Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli and Il Divo. But as the group developed, the focus shifted to the "Las Vegas" part of the moniker, and the separate backgrounds of the singers.

Fayne was formally trained in opera, composition and musical theater. Davey is more a crooner with an Irish tenor quality. Black is a cruise ship veteran rooted in Southern gospel and country, while Giovi has been a rock singer featured in the Stratosphere's topless vampire revue "Bite."

By featuring each of these elements and packaging them with old-school showmanship, Fayne believes "we've developed not only a style but kind of a sound too that's a little bit different. This little thing that started at the Bootlegger has just grown and grown."