An evening with the stars
For those looking for something a little different, enjoy the vocal talents of Jess Robinson. Quadruple award-winning act Jess has appeared on stage, radio and screen in many guises. In 2015 Jess showcased her impressions (including presenter Alex Jones) live on The One Show, and last year appeared on Britain’s Got Talent, making her way to the live shows. Jess will appear as a panellist in ITV’s new programme The Imitation Game later this year and on tour with her show Here Come The Girls.
Q Jess, as a classically trained singer, what made you choose to do impersonations?
A When I was growing up I was surrounded by different musical styles. My grandpa, who I was very close to, was a jazz pianist, so as well as my classical training, I was influenced by the voices of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. My sisters loved musical theatre shows and my auntie was crazy about Kate Bush. I had always imitated teachers at school to entertain my friends: the reaction and laughter my singing impressions brought to people became addictive.
Q How do you choose the singers you impersonate?
A I like singers who have really distinctive voices or styles – who you’d know in the first few seconds of hearing a song on the radio. I love mixing things up too, by making people sing songs you’d never normally hear them sing, for example, Julie Andrews covering a Lady Gaga hit or Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’, is really funny.
Q What is the importance of comedy in your show? How do you bring on satire in your performance? Do you think satire is an inherent part of impersonations?
A I enjoy making people laugh. I love the laughter that comes from the surprise of hearing a familiar voice singing or saying something completely out of character, or a bit naughty, as well as just sending up the things they do and say usually. I’m not a political comic, my brand of comedy is all about escapism and fun. I like to take people out of their lives for a couple of hours and away from all the nasty things happening in the world. I believe there’s something for everyone in my show: leave backgrounds, politics and beliefs at the door. Just come and be entertained!
Q If someone were to impersonate you, which characteristic do you think they would pinpoint?
A Ha ha, that’s a great question. Probably my loud laugh, my childish playfulness and my hyperactivity. And if they were really going to get it spot on, I’ve been told I have a pouty mouth and ‘blinky eyes’ – whatever that means!
Q Do you feel that using other people’s voices in your impersonations brings you closer to them, despite probably not knowing them?
A I guess it does, yes. It’s acting really. By studying a person, the way they speak and move and react to things, you do start to feel as if you know them. I recently did an impression of Stacey Solomon to Stacey Solomon, live on a BBC Radio Show. She’s someone I really like and enjoy watching, but with comedy impressions you still have to push a person’s voice and mannerisms. I was worried she might be offended, but she was lovely and a good sport. She said: “You could be my best friend.”
With a few other impressions – generally people who aren’t with us anymore – the voice and act becomes a bit more of a tribute than poking fun. I love singing as Billie Holiday or Judy Garland and I feel really vulnerable and raw as Amy Winehouse, knowing what she went through and what drove her.
Q What makes your show different and exciting? Can you give us a brief preview of what to expect?
A There really is something for everyone aged 9–90. You can expect an evening packed with fabulous music, spot on celebrity impressions, stand-up vocal gymnastics and big laughs. As ITV said: “It’s like a mega concert with all your favourite stars”… except they’re all coming out of one person!
Jess Robinson: Here Come The Girls will be at the Dorking Halls on Friday 6 April and Camberley Theatre on Wednesday 11 April.Website: www.jessrobinson.co.uk Twitter: @JessieRobinsonInstagram: @jessinson