Seven Questions for Véronic DiCaire, Vocal Impressionist

The vocalist on impromptu grocery-store performances, honoring Danny Gans and the pop princess who’s tough to pin down

The vocalist on impromptu grocery-store performances, honoring Danny Gans and the pop princess who’s tough to pin down

The vocalist on impromptu grocery-store performances, honoring Danny Gans and the pop princess who’s tough to pin down

Musical eras bounce around like tennis balls on the Jubilee! Theater stage at Bally’s—from Billie Holiday to Karen Carpenter to Rihanna, plus 47 more examples—when Véronic DiCaire is on it. Nurtured by Celine Dion as her protégé and tour opener, the 36-year-old French-Canadian impressionist debuted her one-woman smorgasbord of singers, Véronic Voices, in June. Initially slated to run only through August, the show—which is produced by Dion and her husband, René Angélil—was extended to December 21. Don’t be surprised if Christina Aguilera, Sheryl Crow, Susan Boyle, Whitney Houston, Taylor Swift, Donna Summer and many more—all residing in DiCaire’s talented pipes—wind up sticking around even longer. (Caveat to Miley Cyrus fans: Sorry—this classy lass does not twerk.)

Growing up in Ontario, did you think performing was your destiny?

When you’re in high school, when you have to figure out what your career plan will be, mine was to be a nurse. But I realized when I went into my chemistry and biology classes that I was not doing the right thing. Even my teachers were saying, “Véronic, what are you doing here? This isn’t your profile.” I wanted to be a nurse, because I wanted to take care of people. And I said, “You know what? I’ll take care of people differently, onstage.” The mission is to get to that guy sitting in Row ZZ who’s not smiling. I’m gonna make him smile or applaud or get up from his seat.

Why singing impressions?

In my other life I am a singer and a recording artist; I did Grease and Chicago onstage. At first I was only doing [impressions] to make my musician friends [and] family laugh. But my mom said, “When you were younger, you did impressions of your teachers and comedians you would see on TV.” In 2008, I was given the opportunity to be Celine’s opening act in Montreal, but as an impersonator. I have been working with a vocal coach for 15 years, and she helped me build a repertoire for my 28-minute show, and I stopped doing my own stuff. The first night, there were 25,000 people standing up after my act.

Since arriving in Las Vegas, you’ve drawn comparisons as a female version of the late Danny Gans. Are you comfortable with that?

It’s an honor. I heard he was a very good person. I never saw his show, but I went on the Internet, and he was very talented. In my show, I don’t [tell] the public, but I added Anita Baker because René [Angélil] saw Danny Gans, and one of his favorite impersonations from Danny Gans was Anita Baker. I’m doing Anita Baker as an homage to Mr. Gans. I cherish that in my heart.

When I was trying to figure out her voice, I told my vocal coach that I feel like I need to yawn, and she said, “Give it a try.” So I started, and she said, “You got it! Now put words in there and emotion.” It’s not to make fun of her at all. You have to place every singer everywhere in your body.

Which voices drive you bats?

Let me tell you, sometimes there are nights when Adele makes me … Oooh. She has a lower voice, and if you’re too high in your body, Adele is harder to get some nights for me. I always have to work my Adele. And I had a hard time with Rihanna, and also Carrie Underwood. It took me hours and hours of listening to them. And when you get it, it’s like winning the lottery—never leave me, PLEASE! A good voice will grow on you. Like a good wine, it gets better and better.

Britney Spears is about to start a residency at Planet Hollywood, but fans can also hear snippets of her in your show. What was it like to master her vocal quality?

Britney Spears for me is the hardest. I’m from a background where I was singing popular songs, and as a singer, I project out there—I’m a Canadian, that’s what we do. So to go into that little voice (she squeaks it out), it was a challenge. That’s where you can hurt yourself, doing these little voices. You have to be very careful. Sometimes it’s hardest to find the new singers, the teens, because they are so processed. … Thank God for the Internet and YouTube, because you can see them sing live. That’s where I got the material to work with.

When you bump into people who recognize you or know what you do, do they request an impression on the spot?

Oh yes. Some people recognize me in the grocery store, and it’s like, “Can you do this right away?” Sometimes I do it, but it’s hard to be on when you’re doing something else. I’m always afraid of the result, because I’m not in the zone.

What were your impressions of Las Vegas when you got here?

There are contrasts everywhere. On the Strip, big lights. But then you go out and realize there is a life outside the Strip, like—Oh, there are Targets. People are actually living. But I got goose bumps when I got off the plane and I saw the publicity for me at the airport. And when I saw the bus [with my face on it]? Oh my God! That was the funniest thing ever. I thought, “I have a bus—I better work my butt off for this!”

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