One-Woman shows are notoriously difficult to pull off successfully and, if I’m honest, I don’t believe O Come All Ye Divas, the American impressionist Christina Bianco’s Christmas residency at The Charing Cross Theatre, fully succeeds in doing so.
However, what can’t be questioned is that Bianco is a huge talent, in spite of being by her own account less than five feet tall.
She rose to prominence in the UK for her role in Forbidden Broadway, the popular US revue franchise lampooning musical theatre tropes which opened at The Menier Chocolate Factory in 2014 before transferring to The Vaudeville.
I’ve always found Forbidden Broadway rather one-note. There’s really only the one joke. ‘Look at us, we’re going to make fun of Les Miserables’ (or Phantom, or whatever) and I’m afraid to say Miss Bianco’s act rather suffers the same misfortune.
‘Look at me, I can sound like Julie Andrews, Cheryl Cole, Jessie J etc.’ isn’t really a whole evening’s entertainment, it’s a twenty minute spot in a variety show. Stretched out to fill an entire evening the joke gets old very quickly without, literally, the variety provided by other entertainers, and though Miss Bianco is the headline act, I really could have heard more of her excellent musical director and accompanist, Joe Louis Robinson, and the supporting band. When he was left to shine, as in his crisp and clear rendition of Sunset Boulevard’s ‘The Perfect Year’, he breaks the hearts of the audience. Miss Bianco might think about having him duet more often with her vocal re-creations.
So, the show…I’m not sure if it’s a question of copyright clearance, but a lot of the impressions barely exceed eight bars. This gives a fast, you might almost say frenetic, pace to the show which, though it gets a little wearing after a while, at least means that we squeeze in plenty of characters.
Her very Catholic American choice of ‘carols’ was interesting, though I have to tell her that like Mary Martin’s ubiquitous Peter Pan, ‘O Holy Night’ is virtually unheard outside the US, other than in film and TV.
Her repertoire really is vast, so I won’t try to name-check everyone, though her Bernadette Peters singing ‘Not A Day Goes By’ was sadly spot on… It almost seems invidious to pick out a favourite, from amongst Edith Piaf (singing ‘Blue Christmas’), Britney spears, almost the entire cast of AbFab, the women from Will and Grace, the women of Downton Abbey, Pepa Pig (reading from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas), Barbra Streisand, Billy Holiday, Shirley Bassey (who I could easily have heard more of…), Gwen Stefani, Drew Barrymore, Catherine Parkinson, Cheryl Cole, July Garland, Liza Minelli (singing ‘I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus’), Keira Knightly, Katie Price, Elaine Paige, I could go on…
That being said there were three impressions which she does which took hold of the conversation of the journey home.
Bjork…just too bizarre and wonderful to explain. A pitch-perfect Julie Andrews singing the most unlikely of things imaginable, and Christin Chenoweth who, I suspect, might have gone completely over the heads of this very ‘staff Christmas party’ audience.
So, what did I think of the night as a whole? I came out wishing she’d get cast in a musical as she has a great voice of her own too.
- Musical Director: Owain Rose
- Cast: Christina Bianco and band of Joe Louis Robinson, Gareth Lieske/Gary Mullins, David Talisman/Richard Burden, Bass Edwin Ireland
- Charing Cross Theatre, London
- Until 7th January 2017
- Review by Richard Voyce
- 21 December 2016