What's Been Said
Broadway Diva Reviews
Review by Jude Hines
On a hot summer’s night, the Barbara Hardy sunken Garden at Holden Street Theatres is the perfect spot (you must forgive the dratted airplane noise) for 60 minutes of those ‘earworm songs’, the songs that stay with you even if you only know a smattering of the music or lyrics, and it is 20 of these both very well-known and lesser, loved Broadway, West End and some Opera classics that soprano, Olivia Ruggiero uses to create her World Premiere show, Broadway Diva.
A self-professed diva and dedicated musical theatre performer, Ruggiero developed a love of performing at an early age, undertaking drama and multiple musical studies including piano, trumpet and singing. Winner of the Broadway World Best Solo Performer award in Sydney, and a regular in Edinburgh and Melbourne, she holds Trinity world theatre and drama qualifications and a Bachelor of Musical Theatre. This body of study and musical experience means that Ruggiero does not simply sing, she lives and performs every musical number as if it is part of a show.
The performance setting is simple; large lit B and D letters, fairy lights overhead, a small table and a stool where she occasionally props herself to sing songs including the world’s shortest aria, ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ by Giacomo Puccini (and boy, can she sing opera), ‘Maybe This Time’ from Cabaret, the classic ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ from Les Miserables and ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ the much loved tear-jerker from Phantom of the Opera. I must confess that the power and authenticity of these songs had a number of audience members welling up. OK, I confess that I was one of them.
Cleverly, Ruggiero segues selected sections from a number of songs so that many favourites can be enjoyed and this included ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ from The Wizard of Oz, ‘If I Loved You’ from Carousel, (with more audience nose blowing sound effects), a very non-Julie Andrews rendition of ‘The Hills are Alive’ from everyone’s favourite, The Sound of Music, ‘I Feel Pretty’ from West Side Story and ‘Wouldn’t It Be Loverly’ from My Fair Lady. One of the standouts for me was the very aptly chosen song for relentlessly auditioning musical performers ‘What’s Gonna Happen?’ from Tootsie. The tension, disappointment and frustration of the life of a disappointed performer was palpable.
Ruggiero is a lilting soprano whose vocal control is impressive and finely honed. Her singing is a masterclass in breathing for power, and maximum impact and the purity of her top notes is literally breathtaking. She describes the show as a ‘thank you’ to all who create the love for music and her sung tribute to her Nanna whose afternoon couch sessions with Debbie Reynolds, Barbra Streisand and other musical film greats was a lovely warm and sincere inclusion. Her interpretation creates songs and notes that I found to be ‘goose-bump moments’.
The Fringe allows us to showcase many skilled local performers and accompanist Thomas Saunders is an example of the many fine musicians who step in with little rehearsal time and work with performers with style, panache and accuracy. Saunders, on keyboard for this show, is a busy teacher, performer and accompanist and does excellent, almost intuitive work in this show.
Perhaps the final song says it all. ‘Let Me Be Your Star’ sums up this heart-warming performance. If you love musical theatre, do not miss this potted version of memorable songs delivered by a passionate and talented performer.
Review by Jenny Pickett
As part of the 2023 Adelaide Fringe, I attended the world premiere of Broadway Diva. It's the baby of co-creators Carly Fisher and Olivia Ruggiero - with Carly directing and Olivia performing, accompanied by Thomas Saunders.
I confess to not having attended much musical theatre, so am in no way an expert in reviewing Broadway Diva, however, my Dad who accompanied me is and we both rate this production a solid 5 stars, based on performance and production.
With the venue being The Barbara Hardy Garden at Holden Street Theatres and an evening performance, the atmosphere was intimate and relaxing. Olivia topped her costume off with a magnificent pair of sparkly red shoes which had the effect of instantly transporting us to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, which was appropriate as the first song Olivia performed was Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The set was simple, with a bowl full of Arnott's Chicken Crimpies and a vase of flowers on a small coffee table. The significance being part of the many fond memories Olivia has of days spent on the couch with her Grandma, watching and singing along to musicals on TV.
Basically, Carly and Olivia's objective was to bring well-known songs from the genres of musical theatre and opera to an audience which have the ability to generate 'earworms' (songs that get stuck in your head). Olivia masterfully performs around 20 such songs within a comprehensive 1 hour program, including The Hills Are Alive (The Sound of Music); I Don't Know How To Love Him (Jesus Christ Superstar); O Mio Babbino Caro (Giacomo Puccini) and I Dreamed a Dream (Les Miserables).
My favourite piece was The Girl in 14G which I thought may have been from a 50s/60s musical but was actually written for Kristen Chenoweth and her debut solo album Let Yourself Go (2001). It was a great song choice for Olivia who perfectly captured the essence of this song, including its theatrics and lyrics which demand an extensive range of vocals, including opera.
Broadway Diva provides the perfect opportunity to experience Olivia's incredible range in musical theatre and opera, with the after-effect of walking away with a few earworms!
Review by Adrian Charles
Just in case you did not get the memo our current millennium rightly belongs to every woman of all-time everywhere, please go and see Theatre Travels’ thoroughly magnificent production Broadway Diva starring Olivia Ruggiero and accompanied by ace pianist Andrew Worboys.
When my wife and I were first invited to the show, we did have some hesitation when reading the show would comprise of well-known Broadway hits. Still, date night is date night and better than a Saturday with ‘Napflix’ at home.
A crowd had already formed, drinks in hand and dressed for the evening so well Avoca’s tidy beach-front lights mirrored those of a certain Australian harbour capital landmark.
It started raining outside and everyone was quietly eager for warming entertainment. As we nestled into the uber comfy seats at Avoca Beach Theatre, we were overwhelmed by the intimacy of strangers sharing a unique experience. So many mothers and adult daughters arrived in arms and with Mother’s Day the next morning their motives were clear. Void of annoying sound checks and pointless delays, the aisle lights dimmed promptly, and the show immediately began.
Broadway Diva’s opening prologue humbled my inner critic as I recalled my own musical childhood followed by Olivia’s deft medley which did not skip a beat. So seamless writing, we were swept into each period of every verse presented.
With each new song, we were again reminded of the enduring message that nearly all musicals provide. The torture and struggles faced can be overcome. Love and understanding conquering more than immovable forces and obstacles. No more so than each character’s sadness and anger from stolen loves, social mores, distances and desire to thrive.
We were well into the first half of the show and Olivia never broke a sweat despite her tireless, gym-worthy and perfectly poetic acting each part in time with the lyrics. No second fiddle, accompanist Andrew Worboys bounded in tune with every key and could not have played any better had he composed the scores himself.
After interval and a quick costume change the audience were clearly already in love with the Broadway Diva. Olivia looking like a young Meryl Streep with an ever-rapid display of apt facial expressions playing the part of each song’s character.
Broadway Diva is an anthem for those in the sisterhood doing it solo. Whether the first female pilot in a male dominated industry as heard in ‘Come from Away’ or the eternal Éponine stuck on her own in ‘Les Misérables’ in the face of outrageous male privilege through the ages.
This latest collaboration between Olivia Ruggiero and Carly Fisher takes female struggles the next step and up a level. Overcoming obstacles is only one way to skin a cat. They brilliantly show Broadway Diva as the proof in the pudding. Sometimes it is even better to just re-write the rules and produce something completely new on your own terms. Especially when the talented vocalist can sing with more range than the Himalayas.
Broadway Diva holds the hopes held by mothers, the support sisters deserve, and the dreams worthy of all daughters. This might just be the less graphic musical sequel of The Vagina Monologues.
Every song in Broadway Diva gives confirmation the world is more than ready for all women to never ever shy from their dreams, feelings, secrets, childlike eyes, joy, desires and happiness. Maybe that day is close to coming. Maybe it has already come. And she is sitting in the seat beside me. And I simply forgot.
Review by Rebecca Wu
Directed by Carly Fisher, Broadway Diva is the brand new show of the wonderfully talented cabaret performer Olivia Ruggiero. Co-created by Ruggiero and Fisher, with pianist Thomas Saunders as accompanist, it is suitable for all musical lovers.
Performed at the Barbara Hardy Garden at Holden Street Theatres, it was a lovely setting with a simple backdrop of freestanding illuminated letters B and D, next to Saunders with keyboard. The garden itself was dimly lit with its strings of lights, and fortunately the weather was perfect.
Ruggiero introduces herself to the crowd and opens with Journey to the Past from Broadway’s Anastasia. With numbers from The Wizard of Oz, Westside Story, My Fair Lady and Les Miserables, as well as some operatic numbers, including O Mio Babbino Caro, Ruggeriero’s versatility is amazing.
The order of these pieces kept the audience engaged and the mood lively. For instance, after a truly compelling performance of I Don’t Know How to Love Him (Jesus Christ Superstar) was Everything I Know (In the Heights) – which she dedicated to her Grandma – and as light relief afterwards, the hilarious What’s Gonna Happen (Tootsie).
Her voice projection and ability to move between the various styles quickly, as well the sharing of herself through stories of her life makes this a truly heartfelt production. It was of no surprise to hear that she was winner of Broadway World Sydney’s Best New Play and Best Solo Performance (2022) with her one-woman cabaret show, Puppets.
The only reason I haven’t been able to give a full five stars was because the atmosphere was disturbed just over halfway through by music coming from the other part of Holden Street Theatre. Although her powerful voice was able to prevail over it, it disturbed the power of silence between sets and song notes at times.
Review by John Doherty
Presented by Theatre Travels & Olivia Ruggiero Holden Street Theatres - The Barbara Hardy Garden 21-23 Feb at 7PM
Multi award winning Olivia Ruggerio is a “diva” in the best possible way! She and similarly multi – awarded director Carly Fisher have created a production of show stopping “ear-worms” from the world of Musical Theatre and Opera that is utterly entrancing, not a mean feat when the temperature is 40°! And I should mention I had goose-bumps many times!
The intimate courtyard suits this soiree style performance very well, and Ruggerio is personable and engaging as she narrates her journey “in this crazy business,” seamlessly slipping into character for each song. And that really is the key to the success of this show. Broadway Diva is not merely a singer singing great songs, but a very fine performer utterly inhabiting the songs.
And then, of course, the songs! I am not, I regret to confess, a Musical Theatre aficionado. However, there were only two or three songs I was not familiar with which mattered not a jot, they were so well performed. “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” (Jesus Christ Superstar) brought tears to this cynics eyes, as did “Dreamed A Dream (Les Miserable) “Everything I Know ( In The Heights ) , dedicated to Ruggerio’s late Grandmother nearly had me sobbing! I don’t believe I was alone in this! Can’t Help Loving Dat Man” (Showboat), “Somebody Somewhere” and “O Mio Babbino Caro” (Gianni Schicchi by Puccini) were among the songs that gave free rein to Ruggerio’s virtuosity. “Girl in 4G” (Credit: Jeanine Tesori) brought a great deal of humour toward the close of the show.
Accompanist Thomas’ Saunders CV is impressive and his playing certainly reflected that The PA System was, occasionally, a little peaky, but that’s a minor issue. Perhaps it was the heat!
This is Carly Fisher's first script and it works very well! Young or old, or somewhere in between, if you’re a lover of great singing, Musical Theatre and the occasional Opera you will love this show! I did!
Review by Chuck Moore Reviews About
With Theatre Travels, Olivia Ruggiero is running: Her own Broadway Tour, a showcase of “greatest earworms” (aka stick around in your memory), and a gathering of musical theatre fans/family. And if you aren’t part of that Fan Family, think the best talent/reality TV show you haven’t seen yet. Whichever (or all) of the above applies to you, just don’t miss ‘Broadway Diva’.
Ruggiero can (and does) sing spellbindingly from big (and small) musicals all the way to opera, with “pop” thrown in for good measure, and this dazzling team-up with her director Carly Fisher provides the perfect showcase. Then she throws in her own songs to boot. Anything but a “greatest moments and that’s all”, Our Diva is animated, chatty, a lot of fun, and willing to throw in a thoroughly entertaining theatrical diva moment or few. Name check the Broadway composer or show and it’s likely to be there (and they will be very happy at how they sound) – “the classics” her Nana introduced her to like Streisand and Garland; modern shows like Phantom, JC The Superstar.
A local guest diva surprise performer at each city on the tour – here, Callum Sandercock, with the likes of the ultimate ‘Love’ medley (nearly 8, crowd walking, minutes of it) and when the Broadway Diva vacates the stage, his own solo spots as well. Ruggiero, whose ‘Puppets’ was one of the cabaret-musical joys of 2022, doesn’t just sing (although that would be more than enough), she performs and personalities. For those ‘earworms’ every bit of musical passion to make them shine and showcase the way they (and she) deserves.
For ‘Olivia’, there’s friendly chat about her love of music, and her own songs: including a couple of tributes to her Nana, one for introducing her to guess what. Another “celebrating” ignoring Nana’s wise advice to get a proper job and comic raging about dealing with the performer’s ideas of evil.... The Casting Agent and The Audition Process. “I quit!!! (Foot stomp departure)” (Fortunately she was lying and re-appeared soon after, costume changed and happy, after giving Sandercock of those well deserved solo song moment).
Sydney’s season is apparently sold out (but give the beg/borrow routine a shot anyway), as it gloriously opens a new venue: Qtopia’s Live At the Bandstand (yes, it really is the top level of the Bandstand opposite St Vincents Hospital – and great to see #SydneyFringe –style pioneering of turning un/under-used venues around Sydney into performing spaces is spreading). The good news, the divia is coming to a location possibly near you, after a hit run starting at this years Adelaide Fringe.
If Broadway isn’t calling Olivia Ruggiero, it can only be ‘cause they are too busy enjoying her singing about them.
Hot ticket show that’s Not To Be Missed, and immediately makes the latest crop of TV reality shows redundant.
If #BroadwayDiva and its star don’t sing you into enjoying music shows (and leaving with songs rattling in your head for days to come), nothing will.
Review by Shannon Pearce
Under the fairy lights and in the open air of Holden Street Theatre’s Barbara Hardy Garden, Olivia Ruggiero steps out onto the paved stage in a blue sequinned gown and a pair of Wizard of Oz-esque ruby slippers.
Her performance adorned by the sounds of birds, she introduces the show as a “journey to the past” through a collection of musical theatre’s “earworms” from classics like Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music to modern Broadway hits like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s rap musical In the Heights.
From the first song, Ruggiero’s operatic background is obvious. Hints of the opera-style vibrato can be heard even when she sings classic Broadway songs.
The songs and their stories move seamlessly from one to another. Ruggiero’s love for musical theatre and its songs is clear both in the way she performs the songs and the way she speaks about them and what they mean to her. This best is exemplified with her “musical thank-you note” to her grandmother, a rewrite of In the Heights song “Everything I Know”, as she describes her relationship to the nana who sparked her love for musical theatre.
Ruggiero transitions well between styles throughout the show. She moves with skill from an American Broadway-style of music theatre singing, to a more measured tone, to classical opera. She deftly switches between styles in her performance of Kristin Chenoweth’s “The Girl in 14G”.
Disappointingly, the PA system did not allow the audience to hear the true depth of Ruggiero’s voice, yet we are able to sense the strength of her voice due to the close and intimate setting of the garden. When she puts away the microphone for an acoustic performance of soprano aria “O mio babbino caro”, her operatic prowess soars forth.
Her Adelaide-based accompanist, Thomas Saunders, provides solid backing to Ruggiero’s performance, although, oddly, the audience is never told his name.
Broadway Diva is a guided tour through some of musical theatre’s best and most beloved songs by an accomplished musical aficionado.
Broadway Diva was presented at Holden Street Theatres. Its Adelaide Fringe season has now ended.
Review by Dr Diana Carroll
One of the delights of a fringe festival is seeing unusual acts you normally wouldn’t encounter, or usual acts in unusual locations. Broadway Diva is a delightful example of the latter, a charming chanteuse performing a solo show in a fairy-lit secret garden.
Patrons are escorted down some steep old stone steps to the garden below. With simple staging, just the illuminated letters B and D (for Broadway Diva, not to be confused with anything else…) and a keyboard for accompaniment, singer Olivia Ruggiero fills the space with her powerful vocals and warm personality.
The song list is an engaging collection of show tunes interspersed with a couple of wonderful operatic arias. While the show tunes are Ruggiero’s staple fare, as she graduated from the Queensland Conservatorium with a Bachelor of Musical Theatre in 2017, it’s the well-chosen operatic works that really demonstrate her impressive range and vocal agility.
Many of your most loved musicals are included here, some with full numbers and some mashed-up into clever medleys where both singer and Adelaide musician Thomas Saunders, on keys, switch from one tune to the next with speed and clarity. From Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music to Jesus Christ Superstar and Les Misérables, they’re all here. There’s even Somewhere Over the Rainbow and, yes, Ruggiero is wearing Judy Garland’s magical ruby red slippers. The show is indeed, as Ruggiero says in her introduction, a celebration of ‘earworms – those songs that stay with you long after you have heard them on stage’.
Showing her musical theatre prowess, Ruggiero adopted a convincing Cockney accent for ‘Wouldn’t it be Loverly’ from My Fair Lady. She was also excellent in the comedic ‘Girl in 14G’, the song made famous by Kristin Chenoweth back in 2001.
The show includes a heartfelt tribute to Ruggiero’s nana who introduced her to the delights of musical theatre when she was just a youngster. These personal insights give the show its soul and make it more than just a songbook. I would happily listen to more of her anecdotes and reminiscences.
For this reviewer, the real highlights are the arias. Puccini’s ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ may be the shortest aria in the operatic canon, at just a minute and a half, but it offers a beautiful display of Ruggiero’s warm, rich tones. Bellini’s soulful soprano aria, the prayer ‘Casta Diva’ from the opera Norma, also showcases her operatic skills.
Broadway Diva was co-created and directed by Carly Fisher, founder of Theatre Travels. Fisher and Ruggiero also worked together on last year’s award-winning show Puppet, which toured Sydney and Melbourne, and went on to the Edinburgh Fringe.
‘We created Broadway Diva to bring to the Fringe as a way to go back to our roots and celebrate the thing that makes us both the happiest – musical theatre. This show is, in many ways, an ode to the incredible musicians, lyricists, composers and songwriters that have made an indelible mark on our careers and lives. It is also our own special thank you to the people in our lives who introduced us to shows, fostered our passion and continue to support our dreams – our families,’ says Fisher.
Broadway Diva is a delightful way to spend an hour in a secret garden.
Review by Matthew Hocter
I have made no secret of my lack of interest when it comes to most cover shows or shows that claim to be this or that. Another thing that I have also made no secret of is my love of being proven wrong when a show doesn’t just “cover” said music, but frames it in a new light that not only does its originators justice, but breathes fresh air and a unique take on well loved classics.
Broadway Diva, the brainchild of director Carly Fisher and its star, Olivia Ruggiero, has none of the cliched “covers” and all of the beauty and resonance that the music of broadway has given us for many, many decades.
Set on the outskirts of Adelaide’s CBD, The Holden Street Theatres have played home to some of Australia’s best and well known theatre. Unaware of the “secret garden” that lies within the extensive grounds of The Holden Street Theatres, The Barbara Hardy Garden housed Ruggiero’s latest award winning show and was a beautiful surprise in the open air on a very warm summers night.
Ruggiero opened the hour long show with the powerful “Journey to the Past” from Anastasia, accompanied by pianist Thomas Saunders. It was clear from the moment that the words fell from Ruggiero’s mouth that not only is this performer exceptionally talented, but the emotion embedded within each song was something that just can not be taught - you either have it or you don’t. Ruggiero most definitely has it.
As the singer moved through classic broadway hits that ranged from The Wizard of Oz through to Phantom of the Opera and pretty much everything else in between, there were standout moments that left most of the audiences jaws firmly on the ground, but also showcased just how versatile this performer is. With personal stories of her Nanna’s influence on her music, that tied in with Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Everything I know” from In the Heights to the Operatic classic from Puccini “O Mio Babbino Caro,” it was impossible to not remain transfixed on everything Ruggiero so effortlessly sang.
Even though I was pretty much eating out of her hand from the very first song, Ruggiero decided to add one final layer of icing to an already delicious setlist, by closing out the show with “Let Me Be Your Star” from the TV series Smash. I honestly thought after the second to last song “Girl In 14G” made famous by legendary broadway performer Kristin Chenoweth, where the song jumps from Opera to Broadway/Belter to Scat and back again, that there was no more in her vocal bag of goodies. How wrong and unashamedly excited I was to discover that there was still more.
Ruggiero might just be one of Australia’s true (and very rare) hidden musical secrets. A secret that those of us in the arts selfishly want to keep forever, but one that the world deserves to hear. Broadway, if you are reading this: COME AND GET HER ALREADY!
Review by David Grybowski
Vocal artist Olivia Ruggiero sings like an angel. The title of the show announces her two musical interests: Broadway for American musicals and diva for opera. Olivia performs in Adelaide already well-awarded. Her collaboration with director Carly Fisher resulted in Puppets which won Broadway World Sydney’s Best New Play, and Olivia receiving the best solo performance award last year.
Together, they created a syllabus of musical favourites and some less known but more fun numbers for Broadway Diva. When you are not lulled into a submissive buzz, you are enchanted by Olivia’s expressions or empathising with her prodigious love of her craft. Hers is a family story with Gran introducing her to musical theatre and Mum handing out flyers. Olivia presented a balanced mix of medleys and complete songs, all ably accompanied by Thomas Saunders on the keyboard. I Don’t Know How to Love Him of Jesus Christ Superstar was a moving emotional introspection. Jeanine Tesori’s (the most prolific and honoured female theatrical composer in history) very funny song about the frustrated Girl in 14B is a highlight of lively interpretation. A couple of short arias including an animated rendition of Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro were a very welcome change-up from Broadway.
Olivia looked fantastic in a firm-fitting sequined gown and she stayed cool in the evening heat. While her songs are imbued with heartfelt meaning and interpretation, her conversational tone with the audience, while honest, is a little too practiced. That slight fault is overwhelmed by her talent, love of craft and gumption. Brava!
PS – The show is presented in the lovely sunken gardens behind the cottage on the Holden Street Theatres premises. Being outdoors, the black vinyl seats cooked in the 40 degree sun for eight hours. Even at 7 pm, my bum was boiling, like a steak sizzling on a hot rock.
Review by Hamavand Engineer
Following her 2022 BroadwayWorld Awards for her cabaret/play PUPPETS, Olivia Ruggiero’s BROADWAY DIVA joined the opening season of QTOPIA’S: Live At The Bandstand. This intimate production, first presented at Adelaide Fringe Festival in 2023, provides the perfect opportunity to experience Olivia's incredible range in musical theatre and opera, with the after-effect of walking away with a few earworms.
Directed and co-created by Carly Fisher, Carly and Olivia’s objective was to create a guided tour for the audience, through some of musical theatre’s best and most beloved songs. With pianist Andrew Worboys as accompanist providing a solid backing to Ruggiero’s performance, Olivia was skilful in perfecting her craft and masterfully performed around 20 such songs within a program that lasted a little over one hour.
Attending an evening performance with a complimentary glass of Pino Gris in hand, I was pleasantly welcomed to an intimate and relaxed setting. The show started on time, with Olivia stepping out in a blue sequinned gown and a pair of sparkly ruby glitter shoes, which instantly transported me to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, appropriate considering the first song she performed was Somewhere Over the Rainbow. From this moment, Ruggiero’s operatic background was obvious and her vibrato could be heard even when she sang this classic Broadway song.
Following the first song, Olivia made friendly chat and introduced the show as a “journey to the past”, expressing her love for musical theatre and its songs. Whilst this was clear, I felt a lack of connection between her and the audience for the first 20 mins of the show, owing to the fact that she made little or no eye contact with them whilst she sang, which left me wondering if this was more about her showcasing her singing talents than taking us on a journey of why the music resonated so strongly with her and made me question whether she truly was what she claimed to be – a self-professed diva dedicated to being a musical theatre performer. However, the connection eventually came, when she did a tribute, or as Oliva puts it, a “musical thank you note” to her grandmother, where she sang a rewrite of In the Heights song Everything I Know, during which described her relationship with the lady who sparked her love for musical theatre and recalled fond memories of days spent on the couch, watching and singing along to musicals on television.
From thereon, Ruggiero sang selected sections from a number of songs which kept the audience engaged. These included the much-loved The Hills Are Alive (The Sound of Music), If I Loved You (Carousel), I Don't Know How To Love Him (Jesus Christ Superstar) and I Dreamed a Dream (Les Miserables). Maybe This Time from Cabaret was a real crowd pleaser and the classic Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again from the much-loved Phantom of the Opera, saw the audience eating out of her hands. Her body of study and musical experience meant that Ruggiero did not simply just sing, but lived and performed every musical number as if it was part of a show.
Whilst it took a bit of time, the diva finally emerged, giving us dramatic and theatrical diva moments in what was for me, one of the standouts – an aptly chosen song for the relentless auditioning process for musical performers, What’s Gonna Happen? from Tootsie. This transformed her show from a mere mix of musical theatre numbers to giving the audience a glimpse of the frustration and disappointment of the life of a performer.
There is no doubt, Ruggiero sings splendidly - a masterclass in breathing for power and maximum impact. The purity of her top notes is literally breathtaking. Her vibrato on point. She transitions well between styles and moves with skill from an American Broadway-style of music theatre singing to classical opera. One of the finest moments in the show for me was when she put away her microphone for an acoustic performance of Puccini’s soprano aria O mio babbino caro (Oh my dear papa), during which her operatic prowess soars forth. It may be the world’s shortest aria, at just a minute and a half, but it offered a beautiful display of Ruggiero’s warm, rich tones and a goose bump moment bar none.
A surprise performer in each city, for Sydney, Callum Sandercock was chosen by Ruggiero to support her through ‘Love’ medley (nearly 8, crowd walking, minutes of it), which worked well some of the time, but fell short mostly, due to the weakness in his voice that didn’t quite match nor contrast all that well with Ruggiero’s and was often a distraction to the harmony they were trying to create. However, when the BROADWAY DIVA vacated the stage, his solo attempt at Peter Allen’s I Honestly Love You showcased his wonderful talent as he established a genuine connection with the audience.
The final song for the evening Let Me Be Your Star (from the TV series Smash) summed up this heart-warming show, with the audience acknowledging her prowess for versatility and showmanship.
BROADWAY DIVA played three nights at the Qtopia and will travel to Bathurst, Melbourne, and Darwin, before travelling to Edinburgh in August.