Most people would be very happy to have a great singing voice. Just one would do. But Christina Bianco has about fifty! How can this be fair? Or even possible? On Thursday night at the Alex Theatre, St Kilda, a full house of enthusiastic lovers of song were treated to a feast of vocal prowess and comedy all delivered by one petite powerhouse of talent and charm.
The show opens with her own lovely voice, and quickly moves into a series of celebrity “mash-ups”. These are fast-moving sequences of vocal impressions of just one song … but by multiple divas. Think of “Wind beneath My Wings” sung by Bette Midler, then Britney Spears, Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, Gwen Stefani, Julie Andrews, Liza Minelli, Christina Aguilera and Edith Piaf. Much of the comedy comes from making unlikely singers interpret a song they’d never sing. This sleight of voice is entrancing to witness, as Bianco glides seamlessly from one diva to the next.
The chanteuse is accompanied on piano throughout with great feeling by her long-time collaborator Michael Lavine. For the rock and pop voices, a backing track is used to great effect. It’s easy to see how Christina Bianco’s act went viral on YouTube. In fact, it has had over 23 million views so far, which has segued into a series of high profile television appearances and tours to the UK and Australia. On the internet, you can replay all your favourite impressions over and over, but with a live stage act, you just have to sit tight and let it all happen.
Bianco had the entire audience rapt as they listened intently, often closing their eyes, imagining the original singer to complete the illusion. There was attention too to the preferences of different age groups. Her impressions go as far back as Billie Holiday and Marlena Dietrich, and up to Ariana Grande and Jessie J. There is a wonderful spoof of Broadway legend Bernadette Peters, taken from Christina’s turn in Forbidden Broadway, and some celebrities who are clear favourites, such as Celine Dion, Barbara Streisand, Julie Andrews and Kristen Chenoweth. She is obviously a big fan and performs their songs with great affection and respect. In doing so, she reveals herself to be an accomplished artist in her own right and worthy of the hype that surrounds her.
The dynamic New Yorker also created something special for her Australian fans. There was a short tribute to Sia and Olivia Newton -John, and then a brilliant piece called “Babs at Work” where Barbra Streisand sings the Men at Work song “Down Under”.
By the end of the first half, I couldn’t imagine what else she could possibly do. Surely this diminutive songstress had done more than anyone could ever do with one voice. Yet there was more. Christina Bianco also does spoken word impressions. So we had readings from Barbara Streisand’s Design Book from Babs herself, then Drew Barrymore and Keira Knightley and another host of voices. On the page, this book isn’t meant to be funny, but given the Bianco treatment it becomes hilarious.
I realize that by now, even her Sydney performances are probably sold out, but do try and see her if you can. It is rare these days to find a show which appeals to all ages and for lovers of great songs that made divas out of the women who sang them. Given the response to her Australian appearances, it may be that Christina Bianco will return soon and thrill more of us with her amazing talents.
Editor’s note: This profile was proposed by the writer, Jon Jackson, and although it is perhaps not standard Classic Melbourne fare, I think Jon has certainly identified the secret of Ms Bianco’s success. There are a number of YouTube videos available which allow you to test his theory!