O Come, All Ye Divas sees Bianco bring her unique yet multiple gift to London’s deceptively intimate Charing Cross Theatre. For just 15 performances, Bianco conjures the divine Divas – for whom Christmas is a particularly special (read: lucrative) season – from deep within her lungs and across a wide span of history. Julie Andrew sits side-by-side with Jessie J; Britney and Billie Holliday croon the Christmas classics.
Christina Bianco is an acclaimed singer and actress. With two Drama Desk nominations, Broadway and West End credits, you’d be surprised by how few people know her name. What’s more surprising is despite how few people know her name how many people know her voice – or voices.
Bianco is the Woman of A Thousand Voices: a YouTube sensation with over 23 million views, she is perhaps best known for her viral version of Let It Go, sung in the style of popstars past and present. She’s appeared on everything from Ellen to Radio 1 and performs across the world in everything from cruise ships to symphonies.
The first half of the evening is superb. Bianco opens strong and within minutes muscles are weak from laughter. She is a tour-de-force, giving a turn at every diva worth a dime: Adele, Cher, Celine. The latter is particularly well observed – and well received – with Bianco bobbing and jutting her limbs with the same dramatic acrobatics as her voice.
Alongside staples, surprising renditions of Alanis Morissette and Norah Jones (who should record Aled Jones’ classic Walking in the Air immediately) set Bianco apart as a master observer rather than a canny imitator. Singing either as herself or as a character, Bianco’s voice is clear, nimble and strong, her tone – and tonal changes – sublime. As a raconteur, she is sparky and confident, as a stage presence busy but grounded. She interacts generously with the audience and has prepared special Christmas crackers that provide a lively, unexpected element to the evening.
The second half goes a little skewwhiff, with a bit too much shtick. ‘Bits’ seem longer, jokes more pre-rehearsed. Bianco’s signature Unlikely Interpretations – where she has divas sing songs alien to their usual style – does not carry over into a lengthy re-enactment of classic Christmas TV moments. What is so unique – the joyful jarring of song and singer – is replaced by a more jaded jarring of knock off and original.
It is sweet that NYC native Bianco heavily anglicises her set however this opens material up to higher levels of scrutiny: Cheryl Cole is spot on, however Lorraine Kelly is more Miss Hoolie than GMTV. The evening’s talent seems frontloaded and lacking a little in invention: where is Celine Dion welcoming us to her Christmas party? Could Streisand not walk us through an elaborate festive table arrangement? By setting the bar so high and so quickly, it is difficult not to consistently expect more and better from Bianco’s incredible abilities.
While singing as herself, rather than appreciating the sweet strength of Bianco’s own voice, we ask ‘Who is that supposed to be?’, ‘Do I know this one?’. To settle into herself is something Bianco is never quite afforded. The saving grace of the second half, however, is Bianco’s delving into Barbra Streisand’s real (yet unbelievable) My Passion for Design.
The band is led confidently and with charm by Joe Louis Robinson, who arranges as well as directs the music. The group listen attentively to one another and respond instantly and intuitively. The stage features a brilliant and baubled Christmas tree and like a true diva Bianco has not one, two, but three costume changes.
Despite a clunky second half, the show contains flashes of comedic brilliance and easily stands up as the best time I’ve had in a theatre in a long time. To mention too many of the musical pairings would spoil what will undoubtedly be the funniest and most fun show of the season, however it’s safe to say Bianco provides the perfect antidote to tired-out, tinselly yuletide musak. One for the grinches out there.