Christina Bianco is an actress known for her skills as a singer and impressionist, her singular voice and comedic charm have brought audiences around the world to their feet. I got to speak to Christina Bianco during a lunch break for Jim Cartwright’s seminal piece The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. The show embarks on a new tour around the UK. It tells the story of a reclusive daughter with a mega singing voice, the show stars Drama Desk nominee Christina as LV, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie star Shobna Gulati as Mari Hoff and Ian Kelsey (Coronation Street, Emmerdale) as Ray Say.
Can you tell us about your current project Little Voice, what drew you to the role of L.V?
I had seen the film and I was so obsessed with it as a kid, my father took me to the drama bookshop in New York, I got the script and it was before I even did impressions. My father was very much like L.V’s father, into music and he worked in radio, when he saw the synopsis of Little Voice, he thought I would love this. I was a huge fan of Absolutely Fabulous so I knew who Jane Horrocks was, so the combination made me very excited to see the film version! People kept saying have you heard of this play Little Voice you should do that! I flew over to see it when it toured ten years ago and saw the first preview in Guildford and was just blown away and I was so lucky I got to meet Jim Cartwright, the nicest man in the world and I got to tell him how badly I wanted to do the show.
Does touring a production add challenges to the show?
Absolutely, in our show in particular taking place on one set that doesn’t really change much, there are a lot of different site lines that will need to work out from venue to venue and sound of course because our show has some music in addition to the dialogue so it’s all about balancing that stuff. Every city will have a very different sound check depending on the configuration of the theatre. So sound check, fight call, making sure everyone can see from the seats in the house but we’re all prepared and that’s part of the fun of touring.
Do you have you a favourite song or line from the show or does it change on a day-to-day basis?
It’s very hard to pick a favourite song because there are so many great ones, I love all the Judy Garland moments and I get two beautiful Garland moments. In my rendition of this show mimicking Judy Garland, I chose Judy in the Wizard of Oz when L.V is singing “Somewhere over the rainbow” as a young Judy Garland and then when she does “The man that got away” I’ve chosen doing Judy Garland on the Carnegie Hall album.
Why should people come along?
Little Voice really has something for everybody, the film is wonderful and it’s one of the reasons I was drawn to the project, but the play has a lot more humour and a greater balance of the light and dark, the natural comedy and tragedy of everyday life. There’s music for everybody to enjoy, these are songs and voices that have stood the test of time. There’s a lots of slapstick comedy moments, physical comedy, there’s lots of grand dramatic monologues that will make you tear up and really make you feel something and ultimately its story of a mother and daughter. It’s a family story and what family doesn’t have their struggle and what family particularly in this day and age hasn’t had to endure something that was life changing and try to figure out how to find a new way out of it.
If people haven’t heard of Little Voice, how would you describe it?
A modern day northern fairy-tale, they use the word fairy-tale on the descriptions on the back of the script and it’s really accurate as this show has so many elements of a fairy-tale. You have a trapped Princess almost like a Rapunzel and then there’s a sort of knight in shining armour figure that that sort of comes through her window and tries to rescue her. You have the evil mother figure and you also have a little bit of magic. Lots of different themes that will appeal to the audiences.
Who was the first person you learned to impersonate? How long did it take you to perfect that person?
I still haven’t perfected any of them! Some come much more easily than others. But I did start not knowing I was doing it I would come home and repeat what a teacher said and put on her voice, when I did it and my parents would say to me “make sure you don’t do that in front of the teacher, you don’t want her to think you’re making fun of her!” That’s the core getting any impression right is that you have to do it with respect and you have to do it with love, you have to make funny voices you have to make funny faces, you have to let yourself do it wrong before you can do it right
Who haven’t you impersonated that you would like to?
There are certain voices I just cannot do. With me being associated with voicing so many of these great Divas people always ask me to do Tina Turner, my voice doesn’t have a lot of grit or rasp and Tina’s voice does. Even if I feel like I could do it I don’t want to hurt myself or injure myself and if I could do Tina Turner then maybe I wouldn’t be able to do the other Diva’s!
When you are thinking in your head does it happen in different voices?
Sometimes! When I’m walking my dog down the street if I’ve been watching something with Katherine Parkinson I 100% talk to my dog as Katherine! I’m a loud New Yorker so I find myself dipping into a Katherine Parkinson impression way more than I should, but I have told her this and she does not have a restraining order out on me yet!
Who are your influences and inspirations?
A big one for me obviously is Judy Garland, she is also a little lady with a big voice 4’11 the same height as myself so whenever somebody made fun of my size, I was like look at Judy Garland does it matter to her! When it comes to particularly live performances, I always try to base my live concerts on Bette Midler she’s a great actress and her performances have a lot of comedy and also can break your heart with a power ballad and then in five seconds later doing a funny character. When it comes to impressionists there are so many I love, but the gold standard to me it will always be Tracey Ullman, she’s an incredible vocalist, she’s great on her own and she’s so great within a company and as a team player and what she’s written. I think she is just the most inspiring sketch comedy performers/actresses/singer. I also love Madeline Kahn and Andrea Martin all of these women who are unafraid to be ridiculous but also has the chops to strip all the comedy off and be serious and break your heart.
What is the most rewarding thing about your work?
I love performing, I love singing, I love acting, dancing and my real love is theatre and doing it live on stage. I love the interaction with a live audience, I think that’s where I’m happiest and I think that’s where I tend to do my best work. I love about the arts that every show is different and that shared experience is always different every night even if you’re saying the same lines and hitting the same mark, it’s different and raw every night.
See Christina Bianco as L.V in Little Voice, tickets are available now for the Tour.