‘Sing Your Face Off’ has double the star power

Posted Saturday, May. 31, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

Sing Your Face Off

• 8 and 9 p.m. Saturday

• WFAA/Channel 8

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Sing Your Face Off is bursting at the seams with star power.

The first episode of the gimmicky new ABC show, which airs at 8 p.m. Saturday, features musical performances by Elton John, Lionel Richie, Dolly Parton, Rihanna and Adam Levine. The follow-up episode, at 9 p.m., boasts a lineup of Lady Gaga, Pitbull, Luciano Pavarotti, Tina Turner and Britney Spears.

How does Sing Your Face Off manage to get talent of this caliber?

Actually, it’s easy when they’re all look-alikes and sound-alikes.

In this surprisingly addictive talent-variety-competition show, celebrities are transformed and trained to perform as musical icons. The five celebrities involved: rocker Sebastian Bach (of the band Skid Row), NBA star Landry Fields (the Toronto Raptors), actress Lisa Rinna ( Days of Our Lives), Disney Channel starlet China Anne McClain ( A.N.T. Farm) and Saturday Night Live ex Jon Lovitz (the “other” J-Lo).

Each contestant draws an assignment from the producers and then undergoes hours in the makeup chair and days of training with choreographers and vocal coaches in order to complete the illusion. There’s no knowing who they’ll be asked to become from one week to the next. Sometimes they even perform as someone of the opposite sex.

“It’s the craziest reality show ever,” says Debbie Gibson, the REAL Debbie Gibson of 1980s Electric Youth fame, who’s one of the judges. “I’ve never seen a show quite like this. It’s so fun and so spectacular. You hear the premise and you might think at first that it sounds cheesy. But then you see what the contestants do every week and you’re in awe. It’s challenging, not just looking like the artists they’re impersonating, not just sounding like them, but completely channeling their essence in a live performance. … One week, Lisa Rinna became Justin Bieber — and she took it so seriously. I was like, ‘That was the reality show equivalent to Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry!’ 

Sing Your Face Off is based on a show called Your Face Sounds Familiar, which originated in Spain and spawned more than 20 versions now playing all over the world, from Argentina to Vietnam. Gibson — who was 17 when her debut album yielded four top-5 singles in the late 1980s — was invited by the show’s producers to be a contestant. She chose instead to be a judge.

“I love the show and I want to be on it forever,” she explains. “If I’m a contestant, that means I can be on for only one season.”

Still, Gibson got a taste of what the transformation is like. She and fellow judge Darrell Hammond, of Saturday Night Live fame, did a duet as Sonny and Cher that will air in the June 14 finale. Gibson suspects that if the show is successful and brought back for another season, showbiz types will be beating down the door wanting to be involved.

“Lisa Rinna, who went from Dolly Parton to Britney Spears to Katy Perry, was like, ‘Oh, my god, I’m getting to live out an acting fantasy every week,’ ” Gibson says. “I have celebrity friends who auditioned to be contestants. They were chomping at the bit to be on this show. I think, once it airs, people are really going to get the bug to do it.”

Sing Your Face Off is one of many irons that Gibson has in the fire. She has a couple of film projects coming up, she’s recording new music, she’s continuing to tour, and she’s shopping a proposal to publish her memoirs.

“There was a 10-year period when there was a backlash against everything ’80s,” she says. “But now it’s good to be of that time, especially if you’re still vital and hitting it. I just played a show in a 12,000-seat arena with Rick Astley [ Never Gonna Give You Up] and the fans couldn’t get enough.”

If Sing Your Face Off lasts more than this season, how long does she suppose it will be before someone is asked to be a Debbie Gibson look-alike?

“I would love that,” Gibson says. “But I don’t know what kind of judge I would be. I’m kind of an expert when it comes to being Debbie Gibson. So I can be a tough critic. But I think I’d be compassionate.”

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