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The Mirage, Fator sign deal

Bring on the dueling Kermits.

The Mirage confirmed in a Tuesday news conference that ventriloquist Terry Fator will succeed Danny Gans at The Mirage after Gans moves to Wynn Las Vegas next year.

Fator's name will go on the 1,265-seat theater as part of a five-year deal, with another five-year option. He opens Feb. 9, after finishing this year's commitment to monthly appearances at the Las Vegas Hilton; his last shows there are Dec. 21-22.

At the afternoon event, Fator had one of his puppet characters say she had "a hundred million reasons to be happy," a joke that seemed to confirm previous reports that the deal could be worth $100 million.

Fator's manager, John McEntee, said he and Mirage officials had agreed not to discuss numbers beyond confirming "a huge guarantee" for Fator. Ticket prices haven't been announced, but Fator will do five shows a week for 48 weeks annually. That creates a potential gross of more than $30 million per year at $100 per ticket and at-capacity attendance.

"I want to be here a very long time," said the entertainer who shot to fame last year as the winner of NBC's "America's Got Talent."

Fator won $1 million on the TV talent show, but said perception of him within the entertainment industry "changed overnight" after word of the Mirage deal began to spread. He cited his Thursday booking on "The Late Show with David Letterman" as an example.

Fator has freely admitted he changed the thrust of his ventriloquism act to musical impressions after seeing Gans at The Mirage. And he said he's not embarrassed to have admitted that now that Gans will be working across the street.

"I have so much respect for Danny, and I believe a good clean competition does not disrespect him," Fator said. "I'll be driven to work hard to be at least as good."

Fator added that as an aspiring ventriloquist he sought mentoring tips from Jeff Dunham, previously the most successful ventriloquist on the casino circuit. Now, he said, "I wouldn't mind it if they booked (Dunham) in here on nights when I didn't perform."

Mirage president Scott Sibella said an impressionist's duel wasn't intentional. "When we knew that we weren't going to re-sign Danny we were hot and heavy looking for the next big act at The Mirage. We knew we had a gem when we saw what (Fator) can do."

However, Sibella did predict, "If they're going to go head to head, I think you'll see a better outcome on this side of the Strip."

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

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