Review of Christina Bianco - O Come, All Ye Divas! at Charing Cross Theatre
If there’s one thing we Brits love it’s impressions. The American YouTube sensation Christina Bianco has carved a very particular niche for herself, showcasing her vocal dexterity and incredible ear for mimicry, becoming a viral video star following expert turns in the hit off-Broadway sensation Forbidden Broadway. In her new solo show playing this Christmas at the Charing Cross Theatre she keeps the audience thoroughly entertained with her affable patter and quirky charm that makes for a riotous evening of laughter and music that’s the perfect seasonal treat.
Impressionist shows are difficult to get right and often the material can seen thin and unsubstantiated. Bianco has crafted an appropriately silly and joyously festive evening that blends stand-up humour, music and her own original take on classic seasonal songs each channeling a wide range of voices in her repertoire.
Her most accomplished impressions sit firmly within the ‘Diva’ cannon, ranging from a spot-on Bernadette Peters and Barbra Streisand to a wonderfully hilarious Cher and Liza Minnelli, exploiting their various ticks and mannerisms to create a solidly impactful repertoire. Whilst her range extends to include more popular singers such as Adele, Gwen Stefani, Lily Allen and Christina Aguilera, she appeals to a broad church meaning that this unique gift never feels too niche and can be enjoyed by a wide range of fans.
Inevitably some impressions are better than others. She excels at the soprano ranges of Kristin Chenoweth and the nasal Idina Menzel, stars she has experience mocking within the Forbidden Broadway context, and it’s within these ranges that her own voice is allowed to cut through. English vocalists, Julie Andrews aside, aren’t quite as successful and don’t have the same exactness which relies on some level of description to work, but her energy and delivery certainly carry them through even if these are not quite on the nose.
The format of the evening is informal yet rehearsed, and she’s expertly supported by a tight onstage band led by the talented Joe Louis Robinson who roll with the punches and make even the audience-led improvisations seem perfected. Her foray into television parody outstays its welcome a little and you find yourself wishing for more singing, but some well-crafted reading sections include a retelling of Dr Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas and a dramatic reading of Streisand’s indulgent design book both justify their inclusion.
A consummate performer in her own right Bianco draws her own natural voice to the fore and allows herself to take centre stage with a couple of jovial Christmas hits and a powerful Smash mash-up that ends the first act. Each delivered with zestful power and tonal perfection she is endearing and warming to watch. A Christmas firecracker of an entertainer, Bianco provides the ideal tonic to get you in the holiday mood.