Interview with Christina Bianco

"I write my own material so I find myself struggling between what I want to include in the show, what I think will help tell the story best, and what I think I should include because its topical or trending."

Interview with Christina Bianco

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

Hey, I’m Christina! I’m a singer, actor, dog lover, impressionist and unapologetic diva-holic from New York. I’m also very very small.

How would you describe your show?

Imagine all of your favourite musical divas and pop culture personalities performing on stage together. Through various genres of music, comedy, countless impressions, musical mash-ups and ‘Unlikely Interpretations’ of songs you thought you knew, my fabulous Everyman Band and I will celebrate the iconic music and style of the stars who’ve made lasting impressions on all of us. From Edith Piaf to Ariana Grande, there’s really something for everyone!

Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

Are you kidding me? It’s THE Edinburgh Fringe Festival - the largest, most diverse, most inspiring arts festival in the world. If you’ve done it before - which I’ve had the privilege of doing twice prior – you get the absolute worst FOMA when you’re not part of it. It’s very unique in the way all of these people from all over the world, squeeze together for one month in this little city to become a slightly dysfunctional but loving family. I’m thrilled to be part of that family again.

What differentiates it from other festivals? 

In addition to the above, I think it’s the scope of talent. You have artists who are just starting out, mixing and mingling with world-renowned celebrities. The surging creative energy, the love of the arts and the inclusiveness of the experience, bonds people from so many different walks of life. That what makes this festival so special to me.

What first motivated you to enter the industry? Who were your inspirations?

I always wanted to sing and perform. The first voices I ever heard and sang along to were Julie Andrews, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand. (Can you tell I loved musical movies?!?) They definitely helped me get my start and form my own style as a performer. My parents always encouraged me and put me in as many classes and theatrical productions as possible. As I got older though, I was drawn to concert and sketch performers like Bette Midler and Carol Burnett. I always wanted to sing as many types of music as possible and perform in various outlets, so I loved the fact that these women were never labelled as just one thing. They are comedic actors, writers, and singers whose performances easily translate onto the stage or screen, for audiences large or small.

I always mention Bette Midler as my greatest inspiration because her audiences just go along with the fact that she can sing a tearful ballad as herself one moment, and play an over the top comedic character the next - within a single concert! I try to bring that dichotomy to my shows and hope to give my audiences a similarly well-rounded experience.

If you didn’t have your current job, what would you probably be doing?

I think I’d be a personalized travel planner (is that a thing?) because I get way too excited about planning my vacations and offer completely detailed yet unsolicited travel advice to my friends. Or I’d be a sugar artist! I love to make pastries and cakes, particularly using fondant. I’ve had no formal training but I’ll proudly say…I ain’t bad!

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

Honestly, I’d do what I’m doing now. Sure, I’d love to reach more people, performing for larger audiences in more cities around the globe, but my goal was always to be respected by my peers and have a career with longevity doing what I love – and I’m doing just that. I’m VERY fortunate because I know those seemingly simple things are not easy to obtain. So, the fact that I’ve been able to travel and have such a varied career – taking me from NYC to the likes of Sydney, doing theatre, concerts, tv, etc – is icing on the cake! 

What is your earliest childhood art memory?

In the den of my first childhood home, watching A Little Romance, jumping on a trampoline for the duration of the end credit music, because I just loved it so much. I was exhausted but I wouldn’t stop until the song was over. I had to look it up now but the score was by Georges Delerue and he won the Oscar, so I guess I had good taste!

Do you ever feel any pressure to be a social commentator, or constantly update material to respond to events?

Yes yes yes and it’s very hard. Although I consider myself a singer and an actor, my show has a lot of comedy in it so people do expect me to be topical and funny. This is especially true when you do impressions. I’ve combatted this in the past by making my shows a mix of my own voice and impressions, and of comedic and tender moments, but it’s still not easy.

I write my own material so I find myself struggling between what I want to include in the show, what I think will help tell the story best, and what I think I should include because its topical or trending. I mean, I love all the old classic divas but I know I’m not gonna connect with half my audience if I do a 4 minute bit on Marlena Dietrich. And I’d lose the other half of my audience if I spend a whole piece on Billie Eilish! It’s a delicate balance of being true to yourself and your art, while staying current and trying to reach a wide audience. Ultimately, I’m happy with the choices I’ve made. Let’s hope the audience agrees when this new show opens!

Equally, do you think there has been a shift in public sentiment that has affected your work?

I really don’t. Which makes me very lucky I think. It’s a volatile time in the world and thus, for the arts. Above all, my work comes from a place of joy & I spend most of my show celebrating universally known/loved personalities and themes.

I also don’t take for granted that even though what I do is often billed as ‘cabaret’ I became popular from the internet and television. And I did so, over the course of a few years. My original fans have grown with me and when new audiences find me, they can see very quickly that what I do covers a lot of ground.

I make it clear that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so my show is very respectful. In an ever-changing world where trends come and go in 12-hour periods, my ‘old school’ variety act can still play to children, their parents and grandparents. I try to provide a positive escape - a celebration of the characters and musical memories we love.

Describe the last year in 5 words or less?

Domestically challenging. Artistically invigorating. Globetrotting.

If you could work with anybody, from any point in history, who would you pick and why?

Sammy Davis Jr. To me, he was the greatest entertainer we ever had. A true showman who could unite audiences of all ages with his incredible vocals, dancing, acting ability, wit, kindness AND impressions! He’s the first artist I recall doing multiple impressions in one song, and he’d just slip that number into his concerts as a little, surprising amuse bouche! He was a class act and a trend-setter. I wish I could’ve seen him perform live, met him learned from him.

Why would a performer opt to do either a ticketed event or participate in the free fringe? What are the benefits and limitations of both?

More often than not, it’s simply a case of how much it costs to put up the production. Obviously, if you are able to offer free admission, you can expose a lot of people to your art who would otherwise not be able to see it. And who wouldn’t want that? I believe that most of us would do that if we could!! What most of us do in the arts is a labour of love and very often, even the ‘best’ gigs don’t pay us what many would consider a respectable salary! That just comes with the territory.

When it comes to putting up a show at the Fringe, for many of us, free admission simply isn’t feasible. You have the basics like venue costs, ads, posters, flyers – if you have multiple performers, musicians, techs and stage hands, you have their salaries to consider too – and it gets infinitely more expensive if you don’t live in town or even the country! Basically, it depends on your content and whether or not you’re collaborating with a creative and production team. You have to make those financial decisions together and do whatever it takes to put your best work out there, while being fair to your employees, while making it an affordable experience for you audience. It’s Not Easy!!! But that’s what puts the biz in show biz!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take a show up to the fringe?

Well, if I haven’t scared them off with my last answer, I say do whatever it takes & Go For It! The Edinburgh Fringe has a legacy for a reason. It’s very special and I firmly believe that going through the process of mounting a show there, and the act of performing your show for the varied audiences there, and seeing all the other shows going on there, will absolutely make you a better performer, a better artist and better business person.

When and where can people see your show?

First Impressions is at Assembly Checkpoint in Bristol Square at 6:20pm, from August 2nd to 25th. (we’re dark on the 12th)

And where can people find, follow and like you online?

You can find tons of info about me and my schedule (like my upcoming UK Tour dates!) at www.christinabianco.com. You can also follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat for wacky impression videos, interviews, rehearsal clips and behind the scenes antics at @XtinaBianco1. (please don't make fun – it was the only handle left that remotely resembled my name, across all platforms.


You can see Christina Bianco: First Impressions at Assembly Checkpoint from 1st August – 25th August at 6:20pm. For tickets, please visit www.edfringe.com

Header Image Credit: Provided

Author

Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe..

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