A year ago, Christina Bianco was a hard-working actress and singer plugging away in Off-Broadway and regional theatres. On August 11, 2013, a YouTube video of her singing Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" as 19 different pop divas, from Britney Spears to Julie Andrews, catapulted her to international stardom.
The video, at youtube.com/watch?v=C3DlDPeurRw , has long since passed 6 million hits, and has generated stories on Bianco on ABC News and NPR, plus spots on The Ellen Show, The Queen Latifah Show, Fox-TV, and the UK's Paul O'Grady Show, where she performed "Total Eclipse of the Heart" for Bonnie Tyler herself. Bianco will now bring her Diva Moments cabaret act to San Francisco, performing at Feinstein's on Thurs. & Fri., June 19 & 20.
Born and raised 45 minutes from New York City in the town of Suffern (made famous by Sex and the City's "suffering in Suffern" jokes), Bianco discovered her knack for impersonations almost by accident.
"As a child, I would sing along with the radio, TV and movies, unconsciously imitating the style and tone of the singers," she says. "After college, I realized I could do mimicking as a true art-form."
Her first and favorite idols to impersonate were Celine Dion and Judy Garland. "Celine's diction and Judy's mannerisms are so much fun to work with," she says. A few years back, Bianco concluded a cabaret performance as Celine Dion singing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," and friends and family urged her to pursue her knack for mimicry.
Bianco admits that perfecting her impressions is no overnight process. "I start with the audio. I like to immerse myself in a singer, listening to a whole album or albums to get a broad sense of their voice and look for vocal quirks. Then I watch video to get their mannerisms. The final step is to see if I can take the artist away from their own songs."
Choosing a song to best showcase her vast array of impressions is a process in itself. "It has to be a song that everyone knows," she says. "It needs to be a song with a lot of words to get each artist's enunciation. The humor is in hearing the same phrase repeated by different singers."
She has run through her impersonation repertoire with songs like "Wind Beneath My Wings," "Natural Woman" and "Let it Go," but none of those other artists get in the way when Bianco is singing in her own voice. "I've had the most experience singing as myself," she says. "My shows are 50-50: singing as myself and the impressions."
Bianco is still reeling from the sudden impact that the "Total Eclipse" YouTube video has had on her career. "When the video first hit, I had a few shows booked at the Hippodrome in London," she says. "The shows sold out, and they added two more shows, which sold out. It was interesting to find out who the fans are, and where they're from. Most of the fans knew me already, but a lot were kids who'd never seen a live concert. A lot of them are adults who appreciate the classic impressions, but the younger ones want to see Britney and the pop divas. And cultured gays have always been my target audience."
Her social-media presence has exploded, with 300 Twitter followers ballooning to 15,000, and more than 104,000 YouTube subscribers, putting additional pressure on Bianco to deliver the goods. "Suddenly I have to keep coming up with new content for the YouTube followers," she says. But on June 19 & 20, San Francisco audiences will not need a computer to experience this diva - and the many other divas inside her.
Christina Bianco in Diva Moments, June 19-20 at 8 p.m., Feinstein's at the Nikko, 222 Mason St., SF. Tickets ($35-$50): or (866) 777-8932