Broadway Diva – Theatre Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

There are few things better to do on a blustery night in Melbourne than heading to The Butterfly Club and sipping on their amazing mulled wine. The way to make this even better is seeing someone like Olivia Ruggiero.

I was lucky enough to see Ruggiero’s previous show Puppets. She had me in stitches and wowed with her soprano voice. While Broadway Diva isn’t as comedy focused, it still gives ample opportunity for Ruggiero to charm audiences with her comedic timing.

Broadway Diva is a love letter to the world of theatre and Ruggiero has picked some of the best and most well-known tunes from across musical theatre history. I think it says so much about the power of music when hearing the opening notes of ‘Journey to the Past’ from Anastasia, played by pianist Mark Bradley. It sent me back in time to a memory of my sister and I as kids, both singing along to it loudly in our living room. This link that musical theatre has to our memories is one of the things Ruggiero talks in length about, that these songs are so much more than little ear worms. They become ‘ear wormed’ into our lives so much so, that a few notes from a piano can bring back years of happy memories.

Please don’t read this and think that Ruggiero will be covering song after song, this is not the case at all. With the intimacy of The Butterfly Club and the universal appeal of her voice and relatability, Broadway Diva feels like you’re sitting with a group of friends, playing your favourite Broadway songs in turns. I don’t think I could ever not enjoy a performance from Ruggiero, but I couldn’t be prepared for the emotional gut punch she would give me on her rewritten version of ‘Everything I Know’ from In The Heights.

In her version, Ruggiero’s Nana, the person that introduced her to musical theatre, is the inspiration here. The beautiful relationship they had is undeniable. I could relate as this story mirrored the relationship with my own Nana, which left me in tears. Having a performer’s experience mirror my own was so rare and special, it felt like she was singing to me alone. It honestly was such an emotional moment that it will stay with me for a very long time.

Aside from a dedication to her Nana, a standout moment was hearing Ruggiero speak so enthusiastically about opera, and her singing voice for this, sweet lord, she was incredible. Talking about her love of opera, Ruggiero mentions the language barrier that may make it difficult for some to get fully immersed in its beauty. However, if you’ve ever found yourself in this predicament, hearing Puccini’s ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ performed by Ruggiero will without a doubt tempt you into a deep dive of opera as an art form you can love, despite the language barrier.

A show titled ‘Broadway Diva’ may only seem attractive to those already keen on musical theatre. But the enthusiasm and undeniable talent of Olivia Ruggiero would easily even the most musical theatre adverse. The structure created by Olivia Ruggiero and director Carly Fisher can easily be altered to work with any musical genre, as long as the performer has the passion on the level of Fisher and Ruggiero. If you adore musical theatre, you’ll undoubtedly feel right at home in a ‘Broadway Diva’ show, and if you’re not, you’ll at least leave with ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ stuck in your head for days.

Broadway Diva played in Melbourne at The Butterfly Club for only 5 shows from the 13th to the 17th of June and its season is now over. However, the show is still on tour!
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Photography supplied.

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