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When A ‘Total Eclipse’ Leads To Some Serious Exposure

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
August 14, 2013

So this here “Total Eclipse of the Heart” video has blown the heck up, tallying a million-plus YouTube plays since Scandal showrunner Shonda Rhimes tweeted a link to it. It’s made the rounds of LaughingSquid and Gawker and the like, and if you haven’t watched it, do yourself a favor and get that done, because you’ll thank me.

I’ll wait.

I know, right? For my part, I was basically like “That’s terrific, good for that lady, some of those are really spot-on, wish I’d been there, ’cause I love 54 Below.”

And then Jeff Lunden, who does a lot of theater coverage for us here at NPR, was all, “Have you seen this? ‘Cause you know she’s got an NPR connection, right?”

Which is when I figured I’d give Christina Bianco a call to ask how that particular evening came about and how it feels to be the talk of the virtual town. Here are some things you might be amused to know:

* “I was outside walking with a friend and I heard my phone buzzing with new messages. One minute I had 6 emails in my inbox, the next I had 72. … They were all notifications about new Twitter interactions and followers. Two days ago I had 348 followers. Now I have 4,000!”

* “My managers are fielding calls and inquiries non-stop. Some are great professional opportunities and some are … questionable. But it’s nice to be wanted!”

* “I have no idea why this video hit the way it did. … To tell you the truth, I almost didn’t post this one. Most of my other videos are much better quality and I perform with a lot more precision. … But maybe that’s what made this video different. It’s more casual and off the cuff. And who doesn’t love an ’80s power ballad?”

Nobody, apparently. And maybe that’s the thing: Bianco says she’d never done her “Total Eclipse” riff in public before, so everybody’s getting their first look.

Plenty of New Yorkers (and tourists) have seen her diva mimicry, though, not least in the Times Square institution Forbidden Broadway, where she earned a Drama Desk nomination and honed her deadly accurate impressions of Kristin Chenoweth and Bernadette Peters. (“Never met either of them, but hope they understand that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”)

And she takes her solo show Diva Moments on the road from time to time; next up are dates in London, Sept. 6 and 7 at the Hippodrome.

The occasion for this “Total Eclipse” bit’s debut was 54 Below’s weekly Backstage night, a kind of open-mic hootenanny for theater types and madly ambitious fans. And yes, it was unrehearsed.

“I have a rough outline,” Bianco says; she’d given host Suzie Mosher a list of diva names to shout out, and she knew she wanted to end with Celine Dion, “but the rest of it was sort of loosey-goosey.”

But then Bianco seems like the game sort in general. Her NPR-adjacent experience involved Jeff Lunden, who’d written a song about Billy Crystal, who was the honoree at a gala at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Bianco, one of the two singers hired to perform, “had to sing it as if I were an old woman who grew up with Billy Crystal in Lawnguyland. So I think Jeff knew I wasn’t afraid of funny voices.”

And so it came to pass that in 2011, when Planet Money needed a showtune about the Euro (as you do), Bianco was tapped to be the Voice of France. Go ahead. It’s a tango.

Three voices she is a little nervous about?

* Adele, whom she’d never done in New York. (“I’d tested it out on a cruise ship, which I think of as a safer environment.”)

* Shirley Bassey. “She’s very difficult; she sings full power, full volume on every single note, and she’s such a dynamic singer at every point in the song. So while you’re changing your voice, you also have to make it safe for your voice.”

* And her own personal pinnacle diva, whose distinctive voice she’s still working on: “The one I’m terrified to do, the one I’ve not yet unleashed to the world, is Dolly Parton. She’s an inspiration to me, and I really want to do her justice.”

In the meantime, Christina Bianco may just be on the way to becoming a diva of sorts herself. Since the “Total Eclipse” video blew up, she’s been anointed by none other than the universe’s Glamazon arbiter of Things That Werk:

“I recently updated my Facebook status to say, Mega video hits, check. Mailing list growth, check. More Twitter followers, check. RUPAUL calling you ‘Shelarious’ = Priceless,” Bianco says. “I’ve told my friends this is how I’d like to be addressed now.” [Copyright 2013 NPR]

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