Jon Lovitz doesn’t mind admitting that imitating Elton John and Luciano Pavarotti in performance for ABC’s Saturday (5/31) premiering “Sing Your Face Off” was “crazy hard.” But get the funny man chatting about this new, offbeat competition in which celebrities take on the personas of famous singers, and you soon get the feeling that the big news of the program will be 15-year-old China Anne McClain.
“Your jaw will drop. All of us were blown away by her. I mean, she’s just off the hook,” gushes Lovitz of the Disney Channel “A.N.T. Farm” star. “Ask anyone else on the show, they’ll say it too: ‘China McClain — phenom!’ She is literally one of the most talented people I’ve ever seen in my life. It was like watching a young, I don’t know — like a young Michael Jackson. What a voice! She sings great, dances great. She has the poise of a 30-year-old professional.” McClain’s a seasoned performer with credits including Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne,” but it sounds like she’s poised to take things to a new level, as “Sing Your Face Off” viewers will see.
And they’ll see Lovitz and other celeb contestants as never before. “I’ve been offered some reality shows, but I didn’t want to do something I didn’t think I could do at all,” he tells us. “I like singing. I’ve sung the National Anthem at Dodger Stadium a few times, and I’ve gotten to sing at Carnegie Hall. I like singing in the shower. This is kind of a combination of what I did on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ where I was playing different people, and having to sing like them and act like them. So it was a real challenging acting job, and I was real excited to do it. And then what happens is you start realizing, ‘Oh my God. What am I trying to do?’ Elton — you think, ‘Oh, that would be fun. “Bennie and the Jets” — I love that song.’ And then you start to really listen to him singing it, and all the little things he does with his voice and everything. I listened to it over and over and over, and said, ‘I had no idea, technically, what a brilliant singer this guy is. And he does it all effortlessly.'”
Lovitz says he was helped by singing coach Roger Love in imitating both John and Pavarotti. “They give you the hair and the makeup and the prosthetics and you start to feel like the guy and I got to be funny, too. Pavarotti, I was singing La donna è mobile, there was a high note I couldn’t get all week. ‘I thought, what’s going to happen? My voice is going to crack.’ But it was really fun. That was the most fun for me because my father wanted to be an opera singer. He was always singing around the house or playing opera music. So it had a very deep emotional feeling for me to be out there, very personal.”