Charing Cross Theatre, London – until 7 January 2017
Guest reviewer: Sarah Tinsley
A sparkling tree, surrounded by instruments, the rumbling of the nearby Tube and a buzzing audience; the stage is set for a deliciously London festive treat.
If you haven’t heard of Christina Bianco, a quick YouTube search will yield a few delights – a Broadway and West End singer, turning her talents to impersonation. In a flick of her hair, she shifts from the growl of Christina Aguilera to the chirrup of Julie Andrews. An impressive feat at the best of times, this show is special, with her talents turned to Christmas songs and stories.
For someone with such big-screen credits, it was rather lovely to hear her in the Charing Cross Theatre. It has the feel of an original Music Hall, having nestled in the centre of London since 1894. You can’t help but be reminded of a time when candlelight flickered in the lamps and an audience called and jostled with the performers.
Fitting with this ambience, the show is personal and frivolous, with frequent chatty asides, conversations on stage, and interaction with the audience. Her voice is spectacular, the songs are well-chosen and fun, and the whole atmosphere is charming. You are guaranteed to hear at least one of your favourite Christmas songs, delivered to you in a wonderfully unique way. My personal favourite was Idina Menzel, but then I am a Wicked nut. Which is another thing that makes this show so appealing; if you’re mad on Barbara Streisand or loopy about Celine Dion, you will not be disappointed.
Between the songs, we hear stories and tales of a yuletide persuasion. Here, too, she puts her impressive vocal talents to the test. Cheryl Cole was impressive, especially for someone with an US accent, with Drew Barrymore being another personal favourite. There are a couple of impersonations that don’t quite hit the spot, but they are definitely in the minority. I did also feel, a few times, that the chatty parts between the songs were almost too polished, so it didn’t necessarily feel like we were getting a taste of the real person. Having said that, I left the theatre with aching cheeks from all the laughing and smiling, and a host of songs whirling in my head. That has to be a good evening’s entertainment.
Mention must be made of the impressive band. Under the direction of Joe Louis Robinson, they not only manage to capture the essence of sounds and rhythms that epitomise certain artists, but also riff and improvise to produce some surprising and very impressive feats of festive musicality. I won’t spoil it, but there are definitely a few gems in there.
A sparkling treat that will get you in the festive mood.