Bianco talks ‘Rent,’ one-woman show

Carla Bianco, an NYU grad played the role of Maureen in Rent on Broadway and in Los Angeles.

Carla Bianco is on the rise. After coming off the successful debut of her new live show at Broadway’s renowned supper club 54 Below, which moves to Philadelphia on Oct. 14, WSN spoke with Bianco over the phone to discuss her journey from the Broadway stage to pop music.

A Steinhardt alumna, Bianco got her start after a chance meeting with Jellybean Benitez, a producer who helped Madonna to stardom, while working on a music and musical theater degree. The story of how she got her start became the inspiration for her current live show. Bianco said the show is organized thematically. The performance follows Bianco at different places in her life, from joyful moments like the birth of her son Luca, to whom she dedicated a song that appears on her first record “All This Time,” to what she described as a rock-bottom period that led her to “Rent.”

“A friend of mine called me — I was living in LA, she was in New York — and told me there was this part in the show, the performance artist Maureen,” Bianco said. “She told me, ‘you’re perfect for this role.’”

After listening to Maureen’s solo, “Over the Moon,” Bianco auditioned for the role on a whim and, after a seven-callback process, was cast as the understudy, before eventually taking over the role. Bianco emphasized that the cast wanted to honor the legacy of playwright Jonathan Larson, who passed away the day of its first preview performance.  “He’s the heart of the show,” Bianco said.

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“Every night, there’s this wooden plaque backstage — it says ‘Thank you, Jonathan,’” Bianco said. “You couldn’t walk through the door of rehearsal or that theater without being present with that feeling of devotion to that show and Jonathan’s work.”

Along with her work in theater, Bianco continued to focus on pop music with a mature and contemporary sound. She eventually found success when her song “The Lover That You Are” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Charts. Her second album, “Give Voice,” was released in collaboration with charities such as Autism Speaks and Voices of Education, with the proceeds from the project going to each of these foundations depending on the song. “Broken and Blessed” explores the perceptions and thoughts of a disabled child. The proceeds of that song go to the American Foundation of Disabled Children. Bianco wanted to write from the viewpoints of those who are unable to tell their own stories. Handling pre-production herself and working with several studio musicians, including a gospel choir, Bianco described the project as more collaborative than her last record, and looks forward to making more songs with a pop sensibility moving forward.

Whether working with different charities or taking the Broadway stage, Bianco emphasized getting into character as a vital part of her live performance and her music.

“I come from a theater background, so [the album] has a bit of theatricality to it,” Bianco said. “You get into the spirit of the character you play, and that’s what I tried to do with these songs.”

A version of this story appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 8 print edition. Email E.R. Pulgar at [email protected]

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