If you haven’t been to one of Christina Bianco’s solo shows, you might not have heard the story of a young, eager girl auditioning for her favourite role in The Wizard of Oz. “I was too young to play Dorothy, but I auditioned singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow and I sung it with gusto, I was really loud and really enthusiastic,” she says before laughing. “I think they tried to cut me off after a verse and a chorus but I kept singing.”
She must have had star quality from a young age, as the director decided a munchkin should end the show with a reprise of the show’s iconic song. “I should add to this that my front tooth was missing,” she says. “So every time I said ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ I said ‘thumbwhere over the rainbow’, so it was really nice of the director to give a little lisping munchkin a chance.”
Since then, Christina has gained more than a front tooth, enjoying success around America and in the UK. She has recently made her West End debut in Forbidden Broadway, the show she credits as being her big break when she appeared in the New York production six years ago.
“I did it in one of the venues it played in a smaller off-Broadway theatre,” she says. “The scale here is really exciting, to do it in this gorgeous theatre. I look up into the balcony and then I forget: there’s another one above it! It’s great, I’m having the time of my life.”
The show is notorious for spoofing Broadway and West End shows and performers, with Christina’s favourite numbers including a take on Robert Lindsay in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and her own impression of Kristin Chenoweth, and there is no doubt in her mind over what the joke would be if she were to be featured. “It’s probably a number where they’d say ‘here’s Christina Bianco’ and she’d start singing in her own voice and then she’d probably do impressions or not know who she is or something like that,” she laughs. “They’d probably poke fun at what they hired me for.”
While she may be feeling at home in the Vaudeville Theatre, she has already encountered an onstage injury, even if it didn’t do much damage. “It was more of an emotional injury,” she admits sheepishly. “The other night the big, tall, strapping actor Ben Lewis got carried away on the fake turntable work in Les Mis. I was standing centre, singing into the microphone and he just rammed into me and I fell over. I didn’t injure my body but I injured my pride because I couldn’t get it back together, I kept laughing and laughing and I just couldn’t get back into the number – I couldn’t believe that I’d been wiped out.”
Forbidden Broadway has just under two months left of its run and her plans for afterwards are already beginning. “I will have been a long time away from home so I’m going to go to the States and spend some time with my family for the holidays first. There are a few things brewing though,” she hints. “I can say say that I do hope to get more work here and I love the opportunities that I’ve been given, so hopefully I’ll be doing something that will keep me here.”
When she’s not performing in musicals, Christina stages solo shows in the US and UK where she sings as herself and shows off her array of impressions, although she is more comfortable doing the former. “I’m much more confident singing as myself than I am doing an impression,” she confesses. “I always say I’m very proud to do impressions. I really do love it and I don’t dislike it if somebody calls me an impressionist, but I am a singer first and foremost and I won’t be able to do these impressions if I didn’t have security in my own voice.
“I don’t feel like I hide behind impressions. I really try to get in the mindset and voice of that person, so it’s fun to do, but it’s definitely different. When I sing as me it’s easy because it’s who I am, it’s the voice I have. I’m definitely more comfortable singing as me.”
While she may feel more confident performing as herself, she still worries about lacking variety. “I don’t ever want to get stuck doing the same thing for such a long period of time that I grow tired of it,” she says. “I would say my biggest fear would maybe be that people only want to hear impressions and then lose sight of me as a performer or that I do one or the other too long and that I lose the love for it. I’m trying to fill my career with a lot of variety, for my fans and also for me, so if the variety ever stops then that would be my fear.”
With so much variety to cram in, she may be busy on stage, but behind the scenes she prefers a more mellow atmosphere. “It sounds so cheesy but I love to read. I love books and bookshops and libraries,” she says with a laugh. “I have to say I’m an unapologetic Jane Austin fan, so here I think I might get a train to a park and go and sit and read some Jane Austin. That would be a perfect, typical Anglophile thing to do, it’ll be great.
“Other than that, to unwind I listen to music, every style, while I cook. I love cooking, baking, whatever I can do really,” she says. “I like baking cookies. I make a good almond cookie, a good ameretto cookie. I think if you can perfect biscotti you’re doing pretty good and I’m still not sold on my biscottis but I’m getting there, they’re inconsistent but they’re tasty.”
Her love of cooking is something clearly close to her heart, and while she has never considered a back up for performing, her first thought falls to food. “If I couldn’t do anything in the arts then I would totally become a sugar artist,” she laughs. “Making sweets, really pretty sweets and cakes and all that. That seems ideal: it’s still creative, it’s still artsy.”