Wednesday, June 19, 2013 | 2:51 p.m.
Until now, Veronic DeCaire’s name has been relatively unknown in the U.S. — but the 50-plus voices that come from her repertoire are all instantly recognizable: Shania, Cher, Dolly, Madonna, Adele, Christina and Tina, plus the incomparable Celine Dion, who is a first-time producer of Veronic’s debut show opening at Bally’s on Thursday.
The pint-sized powerhouse opens a 72-show run on the Strip with jaw-dropping impressions of everybody from Whitney Houston to Lady Gaga and Pink. “I’m quite happy if the audience closes their eyes, doesn’t look at me but just listens to the voices on this journey unlike no other,” she told me.
It was Veronic’s talent of combining singing, comedy and impressions that won over Celine and husband Rene Angelil, who invited her to open for the Taking Chances world tour. Since then, Veronic has had 18 months of straight sell-out shows at theaters across Quebec, Ontario, France, Switzerland and Belgium, and was the judge of X-Factor France.
Now, for the first time, she takes on America with this Las Vegas debut produced by Celine and Rene in their first-ever production featuring six dancers and five state-of-the-art video screens.
Robin Leach: How did you even know you had 50 different voices?
Veronic: Before I started to do imitations, back home I had a contract with Warner Music and my albums were country/folk albums. I was asked to do Celine’s opening act in Montreal in 2008 but as an impersonator, and I said I only do five voices. They felt I could do half an hour. Celine and Rene finally said, ‘OK, we want you as an opening act.’ So I stopped my solo singing and I was there for Celine’s show, in front of 22,000 people, and it was so amazing, I said "I have to do this."
RL: Did you actually impersonate Celine before you met her? Was she was of the five voices?
V: Oh, yes. The generation where we were listening to Celine when I was a teenager, she was doing "Beauty and the Beast." So all the singers from my generation wanted to be a little Celine Dion. We were very influenced by her vocally. Every time I sang a Celine song, people would say I sounded like her, and I would say, “No I can’t be.” I only did it for fun for my friends — I never thought of it as something serious and become a full-time gig.
RL: So has Celine ever said anything to you, that you sound more like she does than she does?
V: No but she started coaching me, it was so funny. She has a very good sense of humor, so for me to be in front of my idol and have coaching from her was quite special. I’m also a huge fan of Shania Twain — she’s a very, very big artist back home, and I respect her so much. I haven’t met her yet, so I don’t know what she thinks of my impersonations of her.
RL: I heard you the other evening. You started with Adele and then moved on eventually to Amy Winehouse. So who else is in the lineup of 50 female names that you’ll be debuting at Bally’s?
V: There’s Sheryl Crow, Christina Aguilera, Karen Carpenter, Beyonce, Rhianna, Pink, Cher and also a country segment where I do Reba McEntire, Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. I prepared 55 voices — we’ve got it to 47 and we’ll reintegrate three more to round it off at 50.
RL: Do you ever dress a little bit like the stars?
V: No, no because I’m a singer impersonator; I’m reproducing their voices. I don’t dress up to make believe that I’m Cher or I’m Celine. I prefer to let people imagine by themselves the singers that I’m imitating. I’ve been doing this for three years in Europe, and we found out that we don’t need to dress up. It’s just that there’s a magical thing that happens when I’m on stage, and I’m happy many people close their eyes so they can imagine by themselves that it’s their favorite artist.
RL: Do you sometimes feel that you’re also taking on the countenance of the stars?
V: Yes, I do. For me there’s their voice, but there’s also body language, and I try to have this feeling of being them. I always get chills when I’m doing Karen Carpenter and I like to imagine that she’s kind of visiting me in some way. Sometimes it comes naturally, but Tina Turner, for instance, I couldn’t get her. All of a sudden I had a flash, and I went in my dressing room, got my highest high heels, put them on, lifted my shoulder and twist my neck and there she was! Now every time I’m thinking of her, it’s automatic.
Amy Winehouse is special. Unfortunately, I think she left us too soon. I love and respect her very much. At the end of the song, you’ll see me doing her a salute because I really feel she was a superstar. Can you imagine where she would be today if not for all those problems? However, my favorite is Karen Carpenter.
RL: What happens if you get a cold? Do all 50 stars catch a cold too?
V: Yes. It happened to me once in Paris. I caught a cold and I said at the beginning of the show they all have a cold, so let's work with them.
RL: How much are Celine and Rene involved in this Bally’s show in the Jubilee theater?
V: They’re my co-producers. Celine’s involved financially, so they’re very involved. Celine knows the singers I imitate, and she’ll come to the premiere, and after the show I’m sure she’ll have little tips here and there. She takes care of me for the singer part, and for that I feel very privileged to have her as a mentor. Rene also wants to be involved in the process of creating the show. I feel very privileged to be a part of this big family.
RL: I guess it’s always a dream for a little girl growing up in Canada to make it to Las Vegas.
V: It is a big dream for me, it is. I get goose bumps just talking to you about it. I am French Canadian from Ottawa, so being in Vegas is a very big opportunity.
RL: Who was the fastest voice you were able to nail immediately? Who was the toughest that took forever? And what’s the process that you use to duplicate the stars that you sing?
V: The easiest voice for me was always the lowest one, like Annie Lennox, Pat Benatar; those kinds of voices I get right away. The other ones, like Adele, are very hard. It’s like a good wine: You get it, but it gets better and better with time. When I first started to imitate Adele, it was not perfection, but people in the audience couldn’t tell. They were impressed but for me it was not there yet. I had a hard time with Barbra Streisand, too. I’m doing a younger Barbra Streisand, because for me it was easier to nail her then than the voice today. I listen and listen and listen, then I work with my vocal coach. Sometimes I’m very confident when I arrive and I say, "OK, I nailed this one, listen to this," and she will say to me, "Oh, we still have to work on little things here and there." Other times, I’ll say, "Hmm, I’m not sure," and she will say right away, "It’s good; it’s perfect, keep it that way." So I have another set of ears to help me.
RL: We often don’t believe how we sound to ourselves. We hear ourselves differently than other people hear us. So do you hear Adele when you sing Adele or do you hear Veronic singing Adele?
V: It’s weird to answer, but I know what you mean. The voice on my answering machine is not the same as when I talk, so you’re right. I don’t think I’m the only one — when I hear it, I hear what I heard. People sometimes think impersonators have a different set of vocal chords, but the hearing part is a weird thing.
RL: Does it get frustrating for Veronic to be singing other stars and not to be singing herself?
V: No, because I was ready for that change. Back home, even though I had my two albums, I was also a girl who was hired to do musicals like "Grease," so for me to be where I am today is closer to what I dreamt when I was a kid. The universe put me where I was going to be Celine’s opening act and it changed my life. From there I decided to go for it, and I have no regrets singing the other voices.
RL: Do we ever hear you sing during the show?
V: By opening night we will probably add a song with my own voice. We did that in France and it worked very well.
Veronic is a total newcomer to Vegas but she made her American debut two weeks ago on Katie Couric’s national TV talk show:
Veronic's U.S. debut
She also performed at the Caesars Entertainment party last week for the World Travel Congress meetings here.
There’s also one other familiar voice that Vegas audiences might recognize in her show. Mark Shunock, a fellow Canadian who grew up three hours away from Shania and who receives outrageous applause nightly as "Lonny," the narrator of "Rock of Ages" at the Venetian, is featured in Veronic's act as she interacts with his announcer "voice." He continues nightly at the Venetian but 100 yards down the Strip, his recorded dialogue from a two-hour stint in the studio will “talk" to her. Each of his lines were recorded six ways so the producers can change it to drive the show on a given night with the audience reaction.
Veronic’s show opens at Bally's on Thursday, and the celebrity gala night with Celine and Rene is set for June 28.