Edinburgh Fringe 2014
YouTube sensation Christina Bianco and cabaret star Velma Celli present a selection of your favourite pop divas in 60 minutes. Through humour, versatile vocals and impressions they’ll honour these timeless divas, presenting familiar hits in ways you’re unlikely to have seen or heard before!
Christina Bianco is the woman of a thousand voices, a singing impressionist so talented and marvellous that it makes you want to clap with delight the minute she opens her mouth. I first heard about her from YouTube, as did so many others, where clips of her in dingy New York basement clubs singing the hackneyed Frozen anthem ‘Let It Go’ in the uncanny voices of diva greats have reached millions. For this Edinburgh run she has paired with drag queen Velma Celli for a night of diva worship, and on the whole it is a lot of fun.
Cutting a petite and pretty figure onstage, Bianco produces an incredibly powerful and rich sound from her small physique. Both with her own voice and in the voices of those she emulates, the high notes are pitch perfect and her impressions a marvel to behold. It is an interesting balance that she strikes, because her mimicry is not so perfect as to be entirely without wit and a bit of gentle fun poking at these songstresses (especially the dear Celine Dion). Yet there are moments when you could close your eyes and imagine that the late, great, Amy Winehouse has been resurrected in the room.
In pairing with Velma Celli to do this show, Bianco gives herself a sparring partner and playmate, and there is no doubt that Velma Celli herself has a smashing pair of lungs. Her act is more about re-imagined renditions of hit songs, and her stripped back Jessie J number is quite beautiful. However, towards the end Celli does her own impressions, which are much less honed and erring more towards the side of parody. I think that in context of her own show these would be fine, but perhaps when held up to the previous hour of Bianco’s vocal gymnastics, I would have let them go unsung.
There was also something that didn’t quite work with the dynamic between Bianco and Celli. Their interactions felt quite wooden at times and a bit forced, which led to some of their skits falling flat. I think the show would have been better had they almost treated it as two intertwined solo shows, rather than trying to manufacture banter. However, that being said, it is testament to the musical skill of both performers that despite a certain lack of rapport onstage, this was still an excellent production that more than did justice to the wonderful ladies of song of it was named for.