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The singer, actor and impressionist on why her upcoming Concert for a Cause is so close to her heart
Christina Bianco began performing at age 7, and she started taking advantage of TDF pretty soon after. "I went to this wonderful school as a kid run by a fabulous performer, Diane Coupé—she was in a million Broadway shows," recalls the Forbidden Broadway alum. "In their summer program, every two weeks they took us to see a Broadway show. And, of course, those group tickets were arranged through TDF or the TKTS Booth. As I got older, sometimes my parents would take me to see a show and then I'd become obsessed and want to see it six more times. I would get together with friends and go to the Times Square TKTS Booth with our babysitting money. That's how I saw Sunset Boulevard, Damn Yankees and She Loves Me upwards of three times each! To me, TDF has always been a part of the theatregoing experience."
Even as Bianco's career took off—as "the girl of a thousand voices," her skills as a crackerjack impressionist landed her in the satirical revues Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab and NEWSical the Musical and earned her millions of views on YouTube—she continued to turn to TDF. "I'm still a member!" she says. "Every single year I get tickets through TDF. Sometimes I can't believe what great seats I get or who I end up sitting next to." Sometimes, it's the other way around. Last year, as she settled into her TDF seat at The Band's Visit, a fellow member asked, "'Excuse me, are you Christina Bianco?'" she recalls with a laugh. "They had seen me in Forbidden Broadway. Who knows? They probably got their tickets to that through TDF!"
Given Bianco's longtime connection to our organization—she even sang at the opening of our Brooklyn TKTS Booth—we're thrilled she's doing a live performance on YouTube on Thursday, July 23 at 3 p.m. benefiting TDF's Lifeline Campaign. It's part of her Concert for a Cause series, which she launched this spring at her home in New York City, after returning from Paris where she starred as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl at Théâtre Marigny.
Unlike so many of her theatre peers, whose shows have been suspended indefinitely, Bianco is thankful that she was able to experience an official closing night for Funny Girl, which ended its engagement on March 7. Fanny Brice had long been a dream role for her and she received glowing notices. (In a charming coincidence, that childhood acting teacher she mentioned, Diane Coupé, had been in the original Broadway production with Barbra Streisand.)
But back stateside, as most of her upcoming live gigs were canceled, the reality of being a performing artist during a pandemic sunk in. "Whenever a show ends, especially when you have a great experience like I did with Funny Girl, you're always very, very sad," Bianco says. "But usually you've got something else to look forward to. All of a sudden, to not have that work, it's not just a financial loss, it's also depressing."
Some performers pivoted immediately to virtual theatre, however Bianco took a little time to mourn. But she was soon "inspired" by all the content being created. As someone who became an international sensation on YouTube with her impressions of Bernadette Peters, Celine Dion, Julie Andrews, Bonnie Tyler and other divas, she knew how to bring her talents online.
She's found solace in making new comedic videos (sometimes with her dog), and live-streaming Concerts for a Cause, which allow her to connect with fans while raising money for charity. Her performance for TDF will feature show tunes, sketches, impression-filled mash-ups, an interactive trivia challenge and her signature audience choice segment, in which she performs songs viewers want on the spot. Her former Forbidden Broadway and NEWSical the Musical costar, Michael West, will also appear.
While Bianco sees some upsides to her forced hiatus—"I didn't know that one could sleep eight hours a night!"—she is looking forward to performing live on stage in front of an audience again soon. "I can't think of any time in my life when I've gone this long without some sort of live show," she says, adding that she's excited about her two upcoming, in-person, outdoor, socially distant concerts at The Mansion Inn in Saratoga on July 29 and The Forestburgh Playhouse on August 21.
But she realizes virtual performances aren't going away anytime soon, and she's up for the challenge. "It's amazing how this pandemic has impacted different artists and how they've reacted to it," she says. "This is going to go on for a while, and it's going to evolve. My live-stream concerts are really more like variety shows now, I do so many different fun things with audience participation and trivia and suggestions. So I'm trying to keep a playful attitude."
Top image: Christina Bianco. Photo by William Ernst.