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Christina Bianco: In Divine Company – Menier Chocolate Factory

There aren’t any special guests to give Christina Bianco a bit of a breather during her show In Divine Company. Or, to quote Norma Desmond in the musical adaptation of Sunset Boulevard, a character played over the years by at least a couple of the divas Bianco so heartily admires, “There are no other guests. Just you and me.” The ‘you’, in this context, means the audience, such that Bianco believes herself to be in the divine company of everyone who chose, of all the theatre, concerts, sporting fixtures and other live events going on in London on any given night, to attend her show. It’s indicative of the unashamedly cheesy, or to use Bianco’s choice of term, ‘silly’ nature of the evening’s proceedings – but what, ultimately, is wrong with a bit of fun? You only live once and all that.

Christina Bianco: In Divine Company
Christina Bianco: In Divine Company

Careful not to duplicate too much of the material on her YouTube channel, the concert is nonetheless an extremely mixed bag, covering all sorts of themes from the Coronation of Charles III (being a dog lover, she can’t bring herself to say ‘King Charles’ without immediately following it up with ‘spaniel’) to the Eurovision Song Contest to songs from motion picture soundtrack recordings of James Bond movies. There was even a smattering of audience interaction – not, as I am regularly keen to point out, the same as audience participation: nobody is asked to get up on stage and attempt an ‘impression’ (that is, ‘impersonation’) of a well-known singer.

There were quite a few ‘what if?’ numbers, imagining what it would have been like if X had sung Y: I particularly liked ‘Julie Andrews’ singing songs far removed from the roles she (Andrews) was renowned for. While there’s something utterly absurd and hilarious about, for instance, ‘Édith Piaf’ singing an ABBA tune, as Bianco points out, it’s not possible to determine whether her rendering of the song is how the real Piaf would have performed it. Cue a few numbers made famous by women singers, in the styles in which we are accustomed to hearing them – and thus Bianco proves to be, if she hadn’t proven herself already, pretty damn good at what she does.

The enjoyment she gets from accumulated years of doing impressions is palpable – and practice makes as perfect as humanly possible. As an acquaintance put it a few years ago, “Christina Bianco does Bernadette Peters better than Bernadette Peters!” Her own material is rather more light-hearted than the more acerbic excerpts from Forbidden Broadway, the musical theatre satirical revue that takes the melodies from various shows and modifies the lyrics to poke irreverent fun out of them. A few people have, separately, over the years, told me the Forbidden Broadway number about Peters, ‘See Me On A Monday’ to the tune of the title track from Tell Me On A Sunday isn’t so much a parody as it is plain truth. I shan’t reveal more about it here partly for fear of giving too much away and partly because, even if true, it’s a little bit mean.

Rather like Forbidden Broadway, a skilled and amiable pianist suffices for musical accompaniment – here, Ryan MacKenzie at the piano prefers to let Bianco do as much of the talking as possible, and as far as I could tell, not a single note was out of place. It’s a cast of two, but it’s also a cast of at least two dozen, with impressions of, amongst others, Edina Monsoon from BBC Television’s Absolutely Fabulous and Canadian crooner Celine Dion. An eclectic, enthusiastic and enjoyable concert, Bianco is versatility personified.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

Witness all your favourite divas on stage together, in the singular form of internationally acclaimed performer, Christina Bianco.

Inspired by the divine divas of our day, Christina honours their talents as only she can – by channelling their voices through uncanny and hilarious impressions – while also illuminating the path that led her to find her own voice and brought her from New York City to London.

Christina Bianco – In Divine Company
Menier Chocolate Factory, London
11 May 2023 – 20 May 2023

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