One of Dennis Gomes' greatest pleasures was to offer showcase opportunities to unknown entertainers. T. Fox, whom the late casino exec discovered at the lounge at Tropicana Las Vegas, is currently making the most of Gomes' posthumous largesse with a little program called "House Party," which finds him gigging in what is almost certainly the biggest venue he’s ever played.
The show, which runs Tuesdays and Wednesday through July 12 in the 1,400-seat Superstar Theater, is a breezy survey of several decades' worth of pop music with an emphasis on hits by African-American artists including Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis Jr. Al Green and Earth Wind & Fire. Most of the time, Fox delivers the material in his normal voice, which is a pleasant enough instrument and certainly suited to the mostly soulful material. Occasionally, as with Armstrong (good) and Davis (not so good), he serves up an impersonation.
It is hard to fault him on such numbers as Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” and the Frank Sinatra signature, “Fly Me To the Moon.” But there is simply nothing vocally that sets this obviously talented man apart from scores of other others, be they casino lounge pros (as he is) or weekend Karaoke singers (and speaking of Karaoke, Fox’s obviously tight budget means he performs to pre-recorded tracks).
Instead, Fox’s strengths lie in his stage presence and showmanship. His is an engaging and likeable style that immediately puts the audience on his side. And he has a couple of cool tricks up his sleeve. During the Wonder tune, he encourages audience members to call someone on their cell phones. He then strolls the seating area, picking up phones and singing into them, sometimes sharing a few words with whoever is on the other end.
And his “Soul Train” tribute segment features an invitation to the public to join him onstage (and for a through-the-house conga line). This proved to backfire slightly on him during a recent performance, as one of those accepting his invitation was an 88=year-old woman who shook and shimmied and goofed with Fox like a seasoned pro—and who pretty much stole the show away from him.