Behind the 50 voices of Vegas headliner Véronic

Véronic DiCaire wows audiences with her spot-on impressions of such legendary singers as Billie Holiday, Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, Madonna, Cher, Whitney Houston and Annie Lennox, along with pop stars Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Pink and Katy Perry. During her performance inside the Jubilee! Theatre at Bally’s, she effortlessly moves from voice to voice, stunning the audience with her uncanny ability to sound just like the divas of yesterday and today. Véronic speaks with about performing in Las Vegas, running backstage naked and who she most sounds like — were she to sing in her real voice.

Who is your favorite singer to perform?

Oh, my. This is like the trickiest question ever because it’s like asking your mother what child is her favorite (laughs). But I have several singers. I remember when I was working on that project, we were selecting singers and René Angélil, Céline Dion’s husband, he wanted to make the list with us and he said, “You need to imitate Anita Baker.” And I said, “Anita Baker? Are you serious? Who is she?” I didn’t know who was Anita Baker, until l listened to her song, and I said, “Oh, my God. Yes, of course, I do know Anita Baker.” So I started working on that voice and it became one of my favorites. And I also like to do singers that are not with us anymore, like Karen Carpenter and Whitney Houston. I don’t know why. My show, as I say at the beginning of my show, this show is to pay homage to the singers and to imitate singers like Whitney and Karen Carpenter – it makes sense for me to imitate them.

When you start learning to imitate a singer, like Anita Baker, how do you do it, and how long is the process?

It depends, honestly. Sometimes I think their voices are going to be easy and then I hit a wall and I’m like, oh, no. It’s going to be very hard. I thought Pink was going to be the easiest one, (but) when I started to work on her voice, oh my goodness, it was so hard. I worked for about three weeks to a month only to get her voice. Sometimes it’s easy, but sometimes it’s not. It takes me about, to really refine the voices, sometimes it takes me a month, or two, even. When I got Barbra Streisand, it took me lots of weeks and months just fine-tuning her voice. It was so hard, because there’s different Barbra Streisands. There’s a young, there’s a middle age, and now the (older) Barbra Streisand, and her voice is different. So, for me I have to pinpoint the voice that was closest to what I wanted to be for Barbra Streisand. So, it’s a lot of work, but it’s so much fun. I like to do that. I like to discover and work on new voices when I’m creating a new show.

What  I find interesting is you don’t just sound like them when you sing. You also perform like them, and you take on some of their characteristics.

Well, thank you. I don’t want my body or my gestures to be a parody of the singers I am imitating. My approach to my imitations is that I imagine as if I am at a dinner with Madonna, and let’s say she would ask me to imitate her in front of her, well, what would be my approach? That’s my thinking every time I’m imitating a singer.

I didn’t get that you were trying to make fun of them.

(The songs) are condensed into 30 seconds to 1:30, so obviously sometimes it could look like I’m making fun, but for Céline, you have to slap your hand on your heart and you have to do all these mimics in just one minute, because it’s part of Céline. So, sometimes it could look like I’m making fun of them, but I think people generally do get what I’m trying to do, so that’s why I don’t dress up and I don’t put wigs on, because I think they’re smart enough to get into where I want to lead them in my impressions.

Véronic DiCaire with Céline Dion, who is credited with discovering Véronic and launching her show in Las Vegas.

Speaking of Céline, what tips did she give you about performing in Vegas?

Oh, my my. She has lots of tips. Well, she said to be very careful to not overwork because she said, you know what, these allergies here in Vegas, they’re always here to surprise you. You never know when there’s going to be a new flower coming in to bloom and it’s so hard to deal with the allergies. The dryness is okay because I try to acclimate myself. I came here a week earlier for my rehearsals. I really, really pushed my body into this dryness. In my bedroom at home I don’t have a humidifier, and I don’t necessarily humidify my dressing room because I want to acclimate. I think it’s a good thing because, for me, now my body is not freaking out every time I go out. She told me to be very careful about that and to rest a lot because even though I’m only doing three shows a week, I’m doing promos, I’m doing everything here and there. She said, you know what Véronic, just be careful about that. Don’t overwork, because you wont be able to finish your contract. So that’s what I did, and I think it was good advice.

What is your favorite part about performing in Las Vegas?

It starts with people slapping their partner’s elbows and looking at me and having these big question marks on their faces. I even saw people in front of me blinding their eyes with their hands because they just wanted to have the experience. So, for me, to start the show and having these looks (of) “What’s going on here?” and at the end of the show having them have the biggest smiles on their faces and see that they’re happy and they’re all joyful. For me, that’s mission accomplished. It’s to make them dream or believe. It’s almost like we do magic. It’s fun for me and the dancers, just to see them having their faces with big, huge smiles. That, for me, is the best.

How does your Vegas show differ from what you do when you’re touring?

Well, it’s not very different from what I used to do for my tour. I’ve toured in Europe – Belgium, Switzerland, France – for three years, and the show is basically the same, except for the language, honestly, and the singers, because I had to imitate singers from France. I didn’t have any dancers, so I was dancing with my shadow. To be in Vegas and to add girls with me, it’s so much fun. For me, it’s like a treat. To get here and to adjust the show and add girls and new numbers because “The Queen of Pop” was not a number that I used to do. We created this number specifically for Vegas.

A lot of numbers that we created for this Vegas show, numbers like the ’80s and the piano segments, are the numbers I had in France and also in Quebec. I’m a huge fan of ’80s songs, so I couldn’t resist having different ’80s version of that number a bit.

The country number with Dolly Parton I’m guessing was created for Las Vegas.

Oh, yeah. I couldn’t wait to come to the United States to do my country singers. I’m a huge fan. We know country music in Canada, but not as much as here. I was so excited about that segment. It was one of the segments that I was not letting go at all.

Is that because you’re also a fan of Canadian country singer Shania Twain?

Back in Montreal, in my other life, I was a recorded artist and I was doing a third album – it never saw the day – that third album would have been a country album. I’m a huge fan of country music and if one day I’m older and I can’t be Lady Gaga anymore, I would definitely go towards country music. It’s my lifestyle back home. I live in the forest, I have a chainsaw (laughs) and that’s who I am. Although I love my lipstick and my high heels, I do like to go back home and be the country girl I am. For me, to get here and to finally do the country singers, I was very, very excited about that.

Who do you most sound like, your real singing voice?

My real singing voice is close to Sheryl Crow. When I imitate Sheryl Crow, it’s not very far from my voice. Weird, isn’t it?

Where does your singing come from?

Oh, my. I have been singing for all my life. My dad comes from a huge family, a typical French Canadian big family and every New Year’s Eve, we would get to my grandparents and we would sing folk songs. For us, I think that’s where it all came from.  I was always amazed and I always wanted to do shows for Christmas. I was the annoying child that always wanted to do shows in family reunions.

What have you learned as an artist from your residency here?

That you have to work very hard and not take for granted that your face is on the marquee, that you’re a headliner of a casino. Never take that for granted. I find that you have to work very hard. Although we are all friends, we also have a certain competition between each other. It’s a friendly competition, fortunately, because I had the chance to visit my neighbors and I find that there are so many good shows on the Strip and they’re so talented, but never take for granted that your face is on the bus. I think you have to work very, very hard and it’s a tricky city. You have to learn the tourists and how it works and you have to have to work very hard. That’s my approach about this city. It’s a lovely city to work. For me as an entertainer, it’s perfect. I would really love to stay here for a long time.

You were just extended through mid January.

January 18, but we might have good news later. We’re working on it. Not only do I want to stay, but as a performer, you also feel like you have a responsibility toward your team. I want to work with my girls and with the technicians and everybody as long as I can, so I have to work very hard to keep my team.

Any good backstage stories?

It’s always a challenge for us – there’s an elevator, and every time the show starts I never know if it’s going to go up because it apparently can go wrong. Some of the technicians on the Jubilee! show said they had to cancel a show. The elevators on the show, it’s always something we’re scared of. And last week, there was something going on with my boots, and I couldn’t get them off and I was running naked downstairs to just get my boots off. For the piano segment, I was late. I started to sing in the hall. I was like, okay, I’m coming! I was starting to play Annie Lennox in the hall (laughs).

These are always tricky – when you have costume changes and you depend on technology for the elevators. There’s always these tricky things to have.

I’m curious to ask you a question. What was your apprehension about an impersonator. What do you think about an impersonator? Do you think that they dress up, or it’s like Frank Marino’s show? What is, for you, an impersonator?

I guess when I think of an impersonator, I immediately think of Elvis.

(Laughs) I love it! Well, I think that’s what we need to put in people’s heads: That I reproduce female voices. Vocal impressions, that’s what I do. I don’t dress up as Barbra or as Céline, and that’s what I have to say out loud to people, for them to understand what I’m doing.

I didn’t know what to expect when I went to your show.

See, that’s half the gamble on my show (laughs).

Véronic Voices performs at 9:30 p.m. Thursday and 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Bally’s.