Christina Bianco bringing divas to life in Little Voice

Christina Bianco in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Picture: Pamala Raith)
Christina Bianco in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Picture: Pamala Raith)

IF ever someone was born to play a certain role then it has to be Christina Bianco who is currently bringing some of the greatest divas to life on stage in Rise and Fall of Little Voice.

Every show requires something special from its star but as LV, the young girl who copies the singers she loves while escaping from a troubled family life around her, the demands on Christina are enormous.

She has to bring to life some of the greatest singers of all time ranging from Edith Piaf and Liza Minelli to Shirley Bassey with consummate ease. But for her, it’s almost as though it has always been her destiny.

Christina Bianco in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Picture: Pamela Raith)
Christina Bianco in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Picture: Pamela Raith)

Christina Bianco in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Picture: Pamela Raith)

“If you were going to write a show specifically for me then I guess this would come pretty close,” laughed Christina who has been a star on Broadway as well as being recognised as one of America’s top comedians and impressionists.

“When I was younger I just did impressions for the fun of it. I never in a million years dreamed that it would become something I’d make my living doing.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first staging of Little Voice - then a production specifically written by Jim Cartwight to showcase the talents of Jane Horrocks.

“I was a huge fan of Jane Horrocks even before I knew anything about Little Voice,” said Christina. “My first introduction to her was as Bubble on Absolutely Fabulous. My father saw an advert for Little Voice and recognised her on the poster as that girl with the funny accent I liked.

Christina Bianco in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Picture: Pamala Raith)
Christina Bianco in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Picture: Pamala Raith)

Christina Bianco in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Picture: Pamala Raith)

“I remember him bringing home a VHS tape of the film and us watching it together I was blown away. When he told me it was originally a play I made him drive me into Manhattan to the drama bookshop so that I could buy the script.

“So there you are. I have had that script with Jane Horrocks on the cover for nearly 30 years and now I’m in the show. Amazing.”

For any production to reach a major milestone like its 30th anniversary, there has to be something special about it.

“I think with Little Voice the themes in it are so universal,” said Christina. “Also there really is something for everyone in it. If you like broad, ridiculous comedy there’s some of that; if you like long monologues that play with language, you have that too and then you have so much beautiful music.

Christina Bianco in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice 
                                                               (Picture: Pamela Raith)
Christina Bianco in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Picture: Pamela Raith)

Christina Bianco in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Picture: Pamela Raith)

“I think that even if the younger members of the audience don’t know Edith Piaf’s back catalogue, when they hear that voice they recognise her. It is a very special show.”

Although a huge admirer of Jane Horrocks, Christina has been careful not to do an impression of her when taking on the role of LV.

“I am known for impersonating Bubble in my own shows,” she said, “but that would not be right here. Jim Cartwright was very specific about LV and her Lancashire accent is a key part of who she is and I have worked very hard to get that right.”

Christina then proceeds to launch into the most convincing Lancashire accent your likely to ever hear coming from an American.

“No-one’s said anything negative about the accent so far so I’ll take that,” she laughed.

For Little Voice to work as a stage show, LV has to be totally convincing.

“For an impression to work effectively I think it has to be done with respect and love,” said Christina. “With LV she isn’t a performer, she hasn’t got the showmanship so her impersonations have to be absolutely spot on which is a great challenge.”

“The first person I ever heard do singing impressions was Sammy Davis Junior because that’s who I was listening to as a kid – I think that shows you the kind of kid I was,” she laughed.

Christina Bianco
Christina Bianco

Christina Bianco

“I was very similar to LV in that respect, listening to all those old classic songs.”

To most of us pulling off a successful impression is an impossible task but for Christina is just comes naturally.

“Some voices come more easily than others,” she said. “Some I really have to work on and it might take a couple of years before I feel I have really ‘got’ that person.

“Singing and speaking are also very different and you do have more to play with when you are trying to work with a singing voice.

“Occasionally there are some people I hear and I immediately get it. I remember binge watching the IT Crowd and I could not stop doing a Catherine Parkinson impression after that - it just came out of me as though I had been doing it all my life. Even my husband asked me to stop because I was talking like her around the house.”

The singers LV loves are very much from the Sixties and Christina admits that if forced to update the show to today it would be quite difficult to find singers who were distinctive enough to fit in the show.

“We don’t have as many divas today,” she said. “Being unique and a little bit odd is not celebrated the way it used to be. There are a lot of incredible singers around today but when you listen to them they don’t really have anything distinctive about their voices and that’s what you need to impersonate them.”

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is at The Lowry, Salford Quays until Saturday (details from www.thelowry.com) and is then at Blackpool Grand Theatre from Wednesday (www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk)