She’s a YouTube sensation on her first trip Down Under and judging by the reception she received the night I attended her one-woman show at The Alex Theatre in Melbourne, she’s also a massive crowd magnet and audience pleaser. I speak of Diva impersonator extraordinaire, diminutive, playful and big voiced Christina Bianco – a woman of many voices. The New York native channels some of Broadway’s biggest names, not to overlook several generations of vocal talent … and proceeds to parody and celebrate them.
From mash ups of famous songs and voices to reading from the pages of a carefully controlled and illustrated design book by Barbra Streisand, Christina brings energy and pizzazz to her interpretations. She takes the music of famous artists and imagines what this would sound like when performed by others. So, she pairs singers with songs you wouldn’t expect them to sing. The results are clever and hilarious. I lost count of the number of women she “took off”, but we are talking dozens.
She goes back to the early days of the 20th century to find her inner Edith Piaf and Betty Hutton, while Bernadette Peters and Kristin Chenoweth are other favourites for her. The very proper Julie Andrews shifts the tone. From Billie Holiday to Shirley Bassey and Nora Jones, Christina does them all. Whether it is Liza with a “Z” or her mother Judy Garland, Christina has both the patter and the moxie. Actors, including Keira Knightley, Penelope Cruz and Drew Barrymore, also get a look in.
And doesn’t she have some real fun with Céline Dion and her namesake, Christina Aguilera? Bette Midler, Alanis Morisette, Whitney Huston and Shakira are among other names featured. Nor does she miss a beat on contemporary artistes such as Miley Cyrus, Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears, Adele, Jesse J., Ariana Grande or Sia. We also hear glimpses of Christina’s own powerful and melodic vocals. Some of Australia’s best-known numbers such as Men At Work’s iconic “Down Under” are not spared the Christina treatment either. She has clearly done her homework on the likes of Kylie, Olivia Newton John and Natalie Imbruglia.
Through it all, she weaves her charming and just slightly irreverent presence, impersonation being the greatest form of flattery. There are no props on stage, just Christina, a microphone and her pianist and musical director Michael Lavine. She captivates and impresses with her imagination, range and dexterity. Christina hits all the right notes and has us eating out of the palms of her hands for near on two hours. A second tour is inevitable. Christina Bianco is a sheer delight. She has two shows at The Hayes Theatre in Sydney this Sunday, 12th March at 3 and 7pm.
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television