Stage Rush TV: Episode 79
- Celine Dion, Bernadette Peters, and Kristin Chenoweth introduce this week’s episode! (Just watch.)
- NEWSical‘s Christina Bianco’s incredible celebrity impersonations and her strangest voiceover gigs
- Broadway grosses
What do you think, Rushers? Which impersonation of Bianco’s did you like best? I’m partial to Celine. What do you think of Bianco’s story? Are you surprised Billy Elliot is closing? Do you think it had a good run, or does it deserve a longer life? Let it all out in the comments below!
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Christina Bianco: The Princess of Off-Broadway Comedy
Christina Bianco impersonates Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, and Lady Gaga. She has to, because she’s already mastered most of Broadway’s biggest stars. Yet if you’re thinking that Bianco is some run-of-the-mill impressions actress, you obviously haven’t heard her sing. In addition to matching (and perhaps even surpassing) the vocal skills of the Grammy and Tony winners she impersonates, Bianco wholly embodies them—movements, facial idiosyncrasies and all. It was her display of these skills in the final incarnation of the cherished off-Broadway spoof fest Forbidden Broadway and currently in the ripped-from-the-headlines revue NEWSical that has made Bianco one of off-Broadway’s most valuable comedic actresses.
For most actors, it takes a few gigs before they find one that defines who they are as a performer. For Bianco, it was her first job in New York. Growing up in Rockland County, New York and attending New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Bianco snagged a spot in Gerard Alessandrini’s final installment of the critically-acclaimed revue, in which current Broadway shows are strung through the satirical wringer, Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab in 2008. Although it earned her a Drama Desk nomination for her performance, Bianco caught the production at unfortunate timing, as the long-running revue series was concluding.
“I grew up listening to it,” Bianco said of Forbidden Broadway, which Alessandrini first created in 1982. “When I booked the job, I figured I had a job for life; I thought I could do it for years and years. Unfortunately, Gerard just had enough and wanted to do other things.”
However, a similar role was around the corner for Bianco in NEWSical, which has been running since December 2009 and is currently playing at the Kirk Theatre at Theatre Row. Rick Crom’s ever-changing satirical revue reflects the political and pop-culture headlines of the moment in riotous musical numbers. Currently, Bianco can be seen skewering Christina Aguilera’s butchering of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at this year’s Super Bowl, embodying an eccentric Celine Dion, and embellishing Lady Gaga’s passion for protecting the gay community.
“Forbidden Broadway was such an institution. When people see you in that show, they associate you with it for a really long time. That wasn’t a bad thing for me,” Bianco said, acknowledging that the similar skills of improv and satirical comedy required for Forbidden Broadway landed her the job in NEWSical.
VIDEO: Christina Bianco on being Dora the Explorer and meeting her husband, Benny the Bull. Read more
Broadway in Bryant Park recap: ‘Chicago’ and ‘Catch Me If You Can’
After a ho-hum kickoff, the Broadway in Bryant Park concert series returned Thursday to its second week with a roar. Big Broadway players like Chicago and Catch Me If You Can showed up with their lead actors and off-Broadway fare like Million Dollar Quartet (new to the “off” title) and NEWSical proved strong.
First up were the guys (and gal) from Million Dollar Quartet, which is readying for its off-Broadway bow at the end of the month at New World Stages (it’s transferring from Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre). Much like Baby It’s You!, this weak show plays the Bryant Park venue fierce as a concert-style performance. Leave the story at home—bring in the hits. Their set list was similar to last year’s, but Robert Britton Lyons bring focus as Carl Perkins and Eddie Clendening is still right on as Elvis Presley. At six songs, their set list could have been cut by two, and they sadly did not perform their signature Britton-Lyons-stands-on-the-bass closing pose this year. Lazy musicians.
The old stalwart Chicago took the stage next, and felt anything but old this year. This was large in part due to Christopher Sieber, one of Broadway’s most reliable leads, bringing his charisma and rubbery face to the stage as Billy Flynn. He led the cast in “We Both Reached For The Gun,” which played great, visually, due to the marionette-like choreography. Melissa Rae Mahon, who was featured in Stage Rush’s Chicago episode of Ensemble Watch, played the part of Roxie alongside Sieber, and delivered her character’s title number with delicious sass.
VIDEO: Christopher Sieber sings “We Both Reached For The Gun” from Chicago