By Adam Tonking
Diva Moments by award-winning performer and world-class impressionist Christina Bianco is an exploration of dozens of the world’s greatest divas performing for you live through the magic of Bianco’s singular talent. If you think the idea of a series of impersonations sounds like a shallow gimmick, you are so very mistaken, because anchoring all of this is the incomparable Bianco.
Her talent as an impressionist is mind-blowing. She employs no props to assist her, using only the physical and more importantly vocal idiosyncrasies (of everyone from Marlene Dietrich to Shirley Bassey to Celine Dion to Adele) to bring them alive on stage, frequently exaggerating their quirks for comic effect, and that alone would have made for a fun and impressive evening. But she employs the art of impression is so many different ways that the act never gets old.
Accompanied at the piano by the amazing Michael Lavine, she performed “Wind Beneath My Wings,” first as Bette, but then switching through different singers to see how they may have treated it. She performed what she called her “Mega Mix,” where she sings snatches of famous songs as the amazing women who made them famous – a particular favourite was Dolly then Whitney, singing (of course) “I Will Always Love You.” She read from a book from one of her favourite divas in a variety of voices from Kathy Griffin to Keira Knightley in one of her most hilarious moments. And as a nod to her Australian fans, she performed songs made famous by Australian artists in a segment called “Unlikely Interpretations.” You haven’t heard “Land Down Under” until you’ve heard it performed by Ms Streisand, and Christina Aguilera’s take on Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” worked surprisingly well. She even attempted a few impressions of Australian divas, proving what a generous performer she is, and while she called her Olivia Newton-John a “work in progress,” I thought she nailed it.
But besides the many incredible women she channelled onstage, the greatest was Bianco herself. She chatted constantly between songs, telling hilarious stories about herself and the lives of the divas with impeccable comic timing, but still in a way that seemed like she was having the time of her life and we were all part of it. And most of all, she performed a few amazing, left-of-centre songs, as herself.
What can I say? More than her spine-tingling Piaf or her ridiculously spot-on Celine Dion, when she took to the stage as herself, it was better than all of her impressive impressions. She is a compelling storyteller, and her ability to colour her voice – and with such rapid ease – adds a multitude of rich layers to the songs she performed. “Wherever He Ain’t” and “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have” have never been performed with greater emotional expression. And her operatic “duet” between herself and “Kristin Chenoweth” was breathtaking in its breadth.
The skill to manage so many different vocal qualities, the athleticism required to perform with such engaging non-stop energy, and importantly, the vocal stamina to sing big song after big song, from the lowest alto to the highest soprano, is truly a phenomenon to behold. And poses the question; how many of Bianco’s homages could have done the same? She is truly a diva unto her self.
Christina Bianco played at Alex Theatre, 135 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda; unfortunately only 8-9 March 2017 and then Sydney at the Hayes Theatre, 19 Greenknowe Avenue, Potts Point
Sunday 12th March 2017 – 3.00pm & 7.00pm (sold out) www.hayestheatre.com.au.
But I insist you immediately check out her videos on YouTube and pray for her return.
Image by Darren Bell