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These Las Vegas shows are beating the trend of closures

Updated July 9, 2024 - 6:08 pm

The torrid July has not masked a cooling trend for production shows on the Strip.

“Love,” “Jersey Boys” are shut down, both on Sunday. Like it or not, only in hyper-competitive Las Vegas do The Beatles and Four Seasons close on the same night.

“Spice Wannabe,” the Spice Girls tribute at Excalibur, is also finished as of July 28. That underdog show played for a year.

But several shows are opening, returning or extending on and off the Strip. We start with the city’s foremost ventirloquial headliner:

As Fator would have it

A quality we have picked up from Terry Fator over the years: He gives far more than than he needs to, to set his show apart. For years at The Mirage, Fator employed a killer band. He created a musically superior show, when singing to tracks would have been acceptable for those who knew him from his “America’s Got Talent” Season 2 championship.

Fator eventually dismissed the musicians, as his sales slowed. But I’ve always appreciated that he had live players on stage for as long as he did, while he sang his tributes to Julio Iglesias, Willie Nelson and Etta James.

The 17-year Vegas headliner is at it again at The Strat Showroom. Fator has a new act, singing Queen’s anthem “Bohemian Rhapsody” live, while operating a new Freddie Mercury figure. It took Fator six months prepare that number for the stage.

Even if ventriloquism (or Queen, for that matter) is not your thing, it is impressive. In the live show, Fator sings in more than 50 voices — even the backing harmonies tracked in are his.

The 59-year-old showman also sings the 19 parts in “We Are The World,” live, in all performances. This is in the order of the voices on the iconic song and video, naturally. Fator sings as Bruce Springsteen-Kenny Loggins-Steve Perry, while operating the tiny figures of every superstar.

As he sings each line, Fator hastily tosses the little heads to the stage, which itself is a funny move.

Fator’s video of the song opened his show at Liberty Loft at New York-New York, with the headliner later revealing to the crowd that all voices were his. But he sang live even off-stage, knowing one day he would need to produce the vocals in front of an audience. It is something else. I’ve said for years that nobody does what Fator does, and that is such a moment.

He’s also incorporated a levitation moment, sending Barry Fabulous floating skyward. Cirque du Bar-ry, as it were. I believe this is the first aerial ventriloquist puppet ever in a Vegas stage show (next, let’s load Barry onto the Wheel of Death).

The magic moment, developed over time with Criss Angel, is another use of the craft that Fator owns. The ventriloquist who has nothing left to prove refuses to sit still.

In your head

I have finally seen why Colin Cloud has had success in his one-man shows. This guy is an expert showman, a spot-on delivery, great interaction with the crowd. And also, hair.

Cloud has just opened his “Mastermind” show at Harrah’s Cabaret. I caught him as Shin Lim’s guest star and sidekick at The Mirage last year, stating afterward that both of these performers deserved their own shows.

I was swiftly informed that was already in the plans.

By now, we have seen all the elements of hypnosis, mentalism and close-up magic presented in a cabaret setting. But Cloud’s classic performance panache keeps you engaged even if you’ve seen these tricks before. He summons a couple on stage for “Deduction,” revealing facts about each in a Sherlock Holmes-style unveiling. “Crime” invokes a quartet of audience members and a stolen ring. He seems as shocked as anyone when a routine works out.

There is an end-of-show reveal that you know is coming, but Cloud manages to establish suspense there, too. Plus, he could start his own line of 1900s-style fashions.

Las Vegas magic icon Mac King, who has performed longer than any current headliner on the Strip, was in Cloud’s premiere audience. King performed for about two decades at Harrah’s starting at the cabaret room and moving to the showroom .

And King’s longtime producer, Bill Voelkner, is also Cloud’s producer. I’m not a mentalist, never have read a mind or predicted a playing card. But I envision a long future for Cloud on the Strip.

Centerfolds of attention

Centerfolds Cabaret on Paradise Road, just east of Virgin Hotel, is showcasing a magic ensemble and an adult revue. Both are familiar to this column.

“Murray’s Misfits,” a project of long-running headliner Murray Sawchuck, opens 7 p.m. July 20-21. The show plays 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 22.

Jen Romas’ “Exxcite” production debuts at 11 p.m. Sunday, running through Sept. 21.

Centerfolds’ anchor production is still “A Touch of Burlesque” dance show. Club GM Lianne Heck says, “These shows embody our commitment to providing diverse, high-quality entertainment that caters to all tastes and preferences.”

If nothing else, “Misfits” proves that as long as there is comedy in VegasVille, Joe Trammel is involved, somehow. The former “Splash” prop comic is in the new cast. Sawchuck’s wife, the multi-talented Dani Elizabeth, hosts. Elizabeth also emcees “A Touch of Burlesque,” and has also co-starred in “Crazy Girls” and “Jubilee.”

Shell Stachowicz, a daredevil and contortionist all in one act; and wonderful sleight-of-hand artist Mondre are on the original roster.

Mondre is also a frequent performer at The Magic Castle. As such, he’s a “Misfits” headliner who has not recently split from the Magic Castle.

On that point, Sawchuck will make some occasional appearances, too.

“Exxcite,” most recently played The Composers Room at Historic Commercial Center, and before that the now-closed Duomo at the Rio. The show will employ the dance team-vocalist format it has featured at those venues. Romas is hosting and performing during shows in July. Vegas vocalists Vanessa La Grand, Claire Soulier and Manda Malina are the show’s singers.

Romas also reports she is reviewing a contract for her other production, “Sexxy,” still a living title.

Elvis in the room

Westgate continues its relationship with Elvis that dates to the hotel’s opening as the International 55 years ago this month. “The King Comes Home” at Westgate Cabaret has been extended. The show starring Elvis tribute artist Daniel Durston runs through June 2025. The production opened in June.

Durston is a former housemate on “Big Brother” (out of the Elvis persona). The show’s star leads a journey through Presley’s early recordings, film career, 1968 comeback special and Las Vegas residency.

Westgate Cabaret also just extended magician Jen Kramer through 2025, and is home to the “Soul of Motown” R&B revue. Kramer has headlined for six years, “Soul” for the past five.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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