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‘Where I need to be’: Strip headliner plans magic in move to The Strat

Updated April 23, 2024 - 6:12 pm

Terry Fator recalls a headliner popular in Las Vegas a generation ago who sang, performed comic impressions and made a name for himself.

His name was Danny Gans. The popular headliner started his impressive, dozen-year run in Vegas at the then-Stratosphere. Gans would later hopscotch to the Rio, Mirage and finally Wynn, where he performed up until his death on May 2, 2009.

Fator’s career has often intersected that of Gans, who was among his entertainment inspirations. Fator opens at The Strat Showroom, a 5 p.m. show titled, “One Man, A Hundred Voices, A Thousand Laughs,” on May 23. Tickets are on sale Tuesday at TheStrat.com or at the hotel box office.

Fator closed his most recent Strip residency, at New York-New York’s Liberty Loft, on March 26.

On his Las Vegas voyage. Fator took over the Danny Gans Theater, renamed Terry Fator Theater, at the Mirage in 2008 after Gans relocated to the Wynn (same theater where “Awakening” is staged today). Fator spent 11 years at the theater, ending in March 2020.

Making an impression

Fator spoke to the through line in his Vegas career during a phone chat Saturday. Fator and his wife, Angie, were in Hawaii, taking a break while preparing for the new production.

“It really is like a circle. It’s weird, because seeing Danny was such a massive inspiration for me,” Fator said. “He was truly one of the most talented people ever. I’m sitting there watching him at the Mirage, and this was in 2005. I was always an impressionist, and always a ventriloquist, but when I saw Danny, I’m like, ‘I can have all my puppets do the impressions.’ ”

That format has been Fator’s model since. He has built a 15-year career in Vegas by mixing his singing voice, superstar impressions (among them Justin Bieber, Willie Nelson and Paul McCartney) and ventriloquial skills. His all-star roster of puppets is back at The Strat, among them Winston the Impersonating Turtle, the not-good Elvis impressionist Maynard Tompkins, date-seeking vamp Vikki the Cougar, and stoner Duggie Scott Walker.

Holographic action

Fator is also priming a new holographic element in the show. He dueted with 2021 “Spain’s Got Talent” champ and fellow ventriloquist Celia Muñoz on “Time To Say Goodbye.” Fator is developing an avatar-type performance for The Strat show. He’s also working up a new figure for the closing number, but leaving the specifics for its debut (we’re hoping a Duggie love interest is in the offing).

Fator has also conferred with his friend and Planet Hollywood headliner Criss Angel on expanding into the magic realm. The two worked on developing a new act at Liberty Loft. The result was among the reasons Fator wanted to leave the Loft for a larger room.

“There’s one thing that I’ve been wanting to do forever, and it kind of has a bit of illusion,” Fator said. “I’m working with Criss on it, and we were trying to figure out how to do it in Liberty Loft. And Criss was just like, ‘Terry is just, there’s just no way this this.’ I just felt there were shackles on me.”

Why at 5

Fator says the 5 p.m. slot is a good time for today’s Las Vegas show crowds, who can catch an early show and do something later — dinner at Top of the World, see “iLuminate’ or “Rouge,” hit Atomic Golf.

“I needed a theater to play, at MGM (Resorts) and other places, Caesars and everybody else, and everybody said there’s just not a theater in town that has availability,” Fator said. “Then we talked to Adam Steck at SPI Entertainment, and they’ve got a slot at 5 o’clock.”

He was skeptical about The Strat, from memories decades old.

“My first reaction was, ‘Oh, my God, I the last time I was in, there was like 25 or 30 years ago, back in the old days, when they had the million dollars in the glass case,” Fator said, referring to a Bob Stupak brainstorm of a million-dollar cash payout. “You would go in and put in a nickle, or whatever, but nobody was ever going to win that jackpot.”

But Fator won one, in Steck’s showroom. That venue is part of The Strat’s $125 million overhaul under owner Golden Gaming, $2 million of which Steck invested the showroom’s revamp.

“We walk into the hotel and we’re like, ‘This isn’t the Strat! What the hell is this?’ ” Fator said. “”Everything was remodeled. Then they bring us into the theater, and holy crap. I went out of my mind. I said, ‘This is what I’m looking for.’ They had my puppets up on eight video walls, four on each side. I was like, ‘This is exactly where I need to be.”

Reluctant to term it a resurrection, Fator quotes from Paul Simon, “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor. I’m looking at this opportunity as the floor, and the beginning of an unbelievable new aspect of my career.”

Tease this …

On the topic of “AGT,” Howie Mandel is coming back to Westgate’s International Theater on Aug. 31.

What works in Vegas

Returning to The Strat, the adult variety-comedy revue “Rouge” celebrated its two-year anniversary on Wednesday and its 1,000th performance Sunday. This show is a success, and is cutting into the business of other productions in the adult revue genre. An underdog, but a show that has its competitors’ attention.

Zany interlude

Bob Zany was to open for Carrot Top at Luxor on Monday night. Zany KO’d Carrot Top from “Star Search” in 1991. Zany had 3.75 stars to Carrot Top’s 3.25. Topper still plays the clip of the two young comics confusedly looking over at Ed McMahon to see who actually had the most stars.

Cool Hang Alert

Boomeranging back to Westgate. International Bar is pumping with Mark Aston at 8 p.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday, Justin Young from 8 p.m.-11 p.m. Wednesday, High Rocktane from 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Thursday, Rock Roulette from 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Friday, SJ & The Ruckus from 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Saturday, and Brooke Wilkes from 8 p.m.-11 p.m. Sunday. That oughtta hold ya. No cover, and the place swings.

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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