Terry Fator: Live from Las Vegas

Terry Fator must never get lonely. Whenever he needs company all he has to do is summon one of his puppet personalities and he has someone to talk to, poke fun at and sing with. It’s little wonder why Fator was the million-dollar winner of America’s Got Talent – his act is truly fun to experience and his talent is unique. Terry Fator – Live from Las Vegas is from his live performance at the Mirage Hotel and Casino and is complete with the production value one expects from a Vegas act. Yet, despite the flashing lights, live stage band and beautiful show girl, sometimes it’s just not enough to disguise the fact that one is simply watching a man talking without moving his lips.

Terry Fator’s talent is undeniable. If it weren’t for a few unnatural throat movements, one would never guess that he was voicing the silly puppets sitting next to him. Even then, the physical movements that betray Fator are only detected under the most intense scrutiny. For all intents and purposes, the zany puppets really do have a life of their own. They have unique movements and personalities and audiences will quickly learn what they can expect from each puppet, adding to the comedy. Cowboy Walter has traditional Southern values and enjoys flirting with women. Winston the Impersonating Turtle loves to – you guessed it – impersonate celebrities. There’s also a stoner and a cougar thrown into the mix. There are enough different personalities to fill the entire show – which runs just shy of an hour and a half – and keep it fresh. The fact that each puppet is so distinct is further testament to Fator’s talent.

The show itself is entertaining overall. Fator is a wonderful singer and he imitates great recording artists almost perfectly, like Aaron Neville, Etta James and Roy Orbison, either by himself or through one of his puppets. In fact, most of the show is singing, so if you were expecting a straight-up comedy routine, you may be disappointed. On the other hand, Fator only sings a portion of the songs before he gets back to puppet banter, which is arguably the weakest part of the show. The jokes are corny and the voices start sounding the same after a while. Fator’s voice is naturally higher-pitched so his imitations are all of people in the same vocal range and there’s always a hint of Fator’s voice that betrays him. All things being equal, however, expectations need to be mitigated since he is doing all the impersonations without moving his lips, after all.

Highlights of the performance that will genuinely have viewers laughing out loud are when Fator messes up on stage and when he invites audience participation. During a routine with Cowboy Walter, Fator accidently gives Walter a different voice, forcing Fator to duck behind the puppet to cover up his laughter. The moment is almost show-stopping, but Fator uses the slipup to inject some great improvised meta humor. Towards the end of the show, he also invites an audience member on stage to become a live puppet. Fator voices the victim into saying ridiculous things that are truly hilarious. Finally, what Vegas show would be complete with a beautiful assistant? The young lady that helps walk puppets on and off the stage is an Amazonian goddess that almost justifies ticket prices herself.

Lastly, some words should be dedicated to the Michael Jackson segment of this show. Terry Fator – Live from Las Vegas was filmed over two nights at the end of February and beginning of March – months before Jackson’s passing. As such, mean spirited jokes about the King of Pop was still publicly accepted, so viewers will be treated to Fator dressed as Michael Jackson, grabbing his crotch, slinging a swaddled baby doll around recklessly and telling plastic surgery jokes. How could he have known that Jackson would die later in the year? Fortunately, Fator wisely includes an insert with the video, explaining his “utmost respect” for the late artist. Watching the segment, however, makes it difficult to reconcile the respect with the performance.

Nevertheless, Terry Fator possesses a rare talent at a level shared by no one else. Whether he’s performing vocal gymnastics by yodeling without moving his lips or throwing his voice to sound like it’s coming from offstage, Fator’s ability is uncanny. While not every joke will have you in stitches and not every imitation is spotless, the performance is varied enough to keep the most critical viewer entertained.