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Interview: Christina Bianco talks THE RISE AND FALL OF LITTLE VOICE on its UK Tour

Christina Bianco chats about her love of The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice, and the positive response to her performance in Funny Girl.

Interview: Christina Bianco talks THE RISE AND FALL OF LITTLE VOICE on its UK Tour
Christina Bianco as LV in
The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice

Christina Bianco is an actor, singer and impressionist who recently received rave reviews for her performance of Fanny Brice in a Paris production of Funny Girl.

Now she's hitting the road and touring across the UK playing the role of LV in The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice.

Christina chats about her childhood love of the show, the challenges of playing a comedic tragic character and the positive response to her performance in Funny Girl.

Can you tell us a little bit about The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice, and the role of LV who you're playing?

The show is about a mother and daughter who could not be more opposite from each other.

LV is very quiet and introverted, and LV's mother is loud, brash and never stops talking. At its core, it's about these two people trying to find a way to balance their lives together without killing each other.

Their relationship became even more strained when LV's father passed away, as LV had a very close relationship with her father, and they were very similar. They loved listening to the records of his favourite musical artists together; typically, the great divas like Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Cilla and Marilyn Monroe. The way that LV mourns his loss, and is able to deal with her overbearing mother, is by locking herself in her room and immersing herself in the music of these divas. She then inadvertently develops incredible impressions of all of them.

It's essentially about a family, the ups and downs that families have, and the comedy and tragedy of everyday life that Jim Cartwright has written so beautifully.

The show is very frequently referred to as a modern Northern fairytale. You've got a trapped princess figure in LV, she's up in her room, she can't really go anywhere and doesn't want to. You have an overbearing mother figure, and you've got a knight in shining armour to come in and save the day. You also have a little bit of magic, and that's the great thing about The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice, it's a very relatable story.

Interview: Christina Bianco talks THE RISE AND FALL OF LITTLE VOICE on its UK Tour
Christina Bianco as LV in
The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice

Were you a fan of the film adaptation, Little Voice, before going into the show?

I really was!

Much like LV, when I was growing up my father loved and shared music with me.

My father worked in radio, and he was always playing different albums and artists from different genres and eras. So, when he saw a commercial for the Little Voice movie, he thought "oh my goodness, this is like my daughter", because I would very often sing along and take on the tone and style of Judy Garland, or Julie Andrews when I was watching Mary Poppins.

I was too young to see the movie in the cinema, but I remember when it came out on video, he rented it from Blockbusters and showed me the box. My response was, "wait a minute, that's the girl from Absolutely Fabulous!" because I always loved British comedy, even though half of it went over my head, I would always watch those shows. So, I was interested in a whole new way after that.

Watching the film, I was so overwhelmed because it's got such light and dark moments. Even though I am a fairly outgoing person and LV is so introverted and quiet, there's so much about that character that I relate to. Like feeling you can express yourself better through music, and sometimes taking on a character or, in her case, a voice to express yourself, and I just thought that was so beautiful. I fell in love with it, and of course, was so blown away by the incredible Jane Horrocks, and I wanted to know more about it.

I remember asking my dad to take me into Manhattan to go to the drama bookshop so I could pick up the play script. From a young age, I was reading the The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice script, and already finding out the differences between the play and the movie.

So cut to some years later, and I'm doing the show Forbidden Broadway in New York (a show that spoofs and parodies Broadway shows and its stars), and it was the first time I was on stage in public doing impressions. As soon as I did that, it was like the floodgates opened. Everyone was like, "do you know this movie or this play, The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice? You should do this!"

For years people have been telling me I should play LV, so the fact that it's finally happening now is just so wonderful and well worth the wait.

This production was supposed to happen toward the end of 2019 and in 2020, and then the universe obviously had other plans, so we had to postpone it again and again. But you know, this is ultimately another great thing about this story. It is about overcoming difficult situations, rising from the ashes and starting anew, and I feel like that's what so many of us are doing after the past two years, so the show seems especially timely as well.

Interview: Christina Bianco talks THE RISE AND FALL OF LITTLE VOICE on its UK Tour
Christina Bianco, Shobna Gulati
and Ian Kelsey in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

As you've mentioned, the show is both a comedy and a tragedy. What have been the challenges of playing such a complex character like LV?

One of the challenges within the script itself is balancing the levity with the gravitas, as you switch on a dime. Jim Cartwright has written these incredible characters, and the way he writes is like a Northern Shakespeare. The dialogue and wording is just so profound, and it's written to be musical and bouncy and have a rhythm, and then just drop off, and you can't be afraid of silence.

That's the big thing about this show. The mother character of Mari, (played by Shobna Gulati) is constant noise and talking, and LV's world is more about what's not said, and what she's expressing in other ways. For me to find comedy in bits where I'm not speaking, and then five seconds later go into an impression and then into something a little more serious is challenging.

I've never had fewer lines in a show and it's still one of the most difficult things I've ever done, because it's not about memorising the lines. I do have parts of me that are shy and introverted, I get very self-conscious and very quiet at times, so I'm finding a way to key into those parts of myself. I have to be able to access that quickly, and then turn on the 'performance mode' very quickly.

It's a very difficult show, even if she has three lines on the page there's acting between the lines and reacting. It is a very full-on show, even if I'm not using all of my words for most of it.

You recently performed the iconic role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl in Paris. What was that experience like?

Well, talk about setting me up for the opposite performance! Fanny Brice never left the stage, almost never shut up and saying almost everything in the show with full brash and excitement, and she is just a force of nature the whole time.

I had to completely forget about the film Funny Girl. I had to erase Barbra Streisand from my head, which as you can imagine, that's quite difficult. I love her so much, but the only way I knew to take on that role successfully would be to make it completely my own and how I could relate to the character. So much of my life I've been told, "no, you're not quite right for this part", and you're told that you're different so often in this business, which is really hard. So I just thought, wow, I completely relate to this person as a New Yorker like Fanny Brice.

I just love the fact that she was a true fighter and feminist. She was so empowered, she refused to let men dictate her life in business and in her marriage; she was incredible.

The show was a dream. I love England, I live here now, so to be hired to do a show working with the great Stephen Mear with this amazing British cast and creative team was incredible. And then to plant the show in Paris, you've got a show about Brooklyn, performed by British people, performed in Paris, and it was such an incredible success.

We knew we had a special show, but it even surprised us how great the response was. Even years later, I've just received a very lovely mention for my performance in the New York Times when they were talking about the new production that's on Broadway.

The fact that this little show has had such an impact, a show that was in Paris that we didn't know if anyone was going to really notice, was great for us as a team. For me, on a personal level, to be known for working as a singer and actor in my own right and not doing impressions, and be recognised for that, it's so helpful as an individual and creatively. It was just such great timing.

Interview: Christina Bianco talks THE RISE AND FALL OF LITTLE VOICE on its UK Tour
Christina Bianco and Akshay-Gulati
in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Why should people come and see The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice?

Because this show has something for everyone.

It has these little fairy tale aspects with a young love story in it, you have this great music that people know and songs that have stood the test of time, so you've got a musical element that brings people together.

If you want something that has some heightened drama, we've got that for you, if you want some ridiculous comedy, we've got that for you. At the heart of the show, it's about a family and the ups and downs of everyday life together, so it's a very accessible story as well.

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is currently touring the UK until 16 July.

Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

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