Does your idea of a great start to the summer include seeing funnyman Jon Lovitz transform into Luciano Pavarotti? Or former Days of Our Lives star Lisa Rinna channeling Dolly Parton with gusto? Or an NBA point guard perform a perfect Pitbull?
If it doesn’t, it should.
ABC’s new six-episode singing competition Sing Your Face Off features Rinna, Lovitz, Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach, 15-year-old Disney star China Anne McClain and Toronto Raptors guard Landry Fields allowing vocal coaches, choreographers and makeup masters transform them into musical icons from across generations and genres — and sometimes genders — to splendidly entertaining effect.
“The first time you see Sebastian Bach as Lady Gaga, you’re going to have a reaction,” laughs Debbie Gibson, the ’80s pop icon who judges the competition along with former SNL star Darrell Hammond and a rotating roster of guest judges, including David Alan Grier, RuPaul Charles and Carnie Wilson.
“Watching someone like Sebastian, who is already a singer, try to put a lid on his larger-than-life rock persona is fascinating — it would be taking someone like Tina Turner and saying, ‘Hey, try not to be Tina Turner!’” Gibson says. “And then you take someone like Landry who has never sung a note in his life and he just blew me away! The kid was so fearless. There was one episode where Landry for a split second got off the beat and he found his way back in a way that was so professional that I’ve seen people on the Grammys who aren’t able to do it.”
Gibson says that while the judges were looking for serviceable vocal technique and overall entertainment value, what she really wanted was for the performers to embrace their alter egos. “For me, it was who really captured the essence of the person,” she explains. “You could be spot on, have perfect pitch, all of that — but I wanted to be transfixed and believe that I was watching the person they were emulating. Not to give too much away, but when you get to the finale, there was one person — because I had seen their artist perform and I had worked with this person and I was like, ‘I fully am in this person’s presence.’ That’s what you wanted to feel.”
Originally tapped to be a performer on the show, Gibson says she felt she had more to offer at the judges table — but if she had the chance to take the stage, she’d like to go country. “Whenever I hear Reba, I think I have her vowels down,” says Gibson, breaking into a spot-on rendition of “The Greatest Man I Never Knew.” “She has, like, three vowel sounds for every one vowel!”
Sing Your Face Off premieres Saturday, May 31, on ABC.
Photos © 2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.