Saturday 17 June 2023

BROADWAY DIVA: Cabaret Review

WHAT: Broadway Diva
WHEN: 13-17 June 2023
WHERE: The Butterfly Club (Upstairs)
CREATED BY: Carly Fisher and Olivia Ruggiero
DIRECTED BY: Carly Fisher
PERFORMED BY: Mark Bradley and Olivia Ruggiero

Mark Bradley and Olivia Ruggiero - photo supplied

There is something so relaxing about dinner style cabaret which makes the soul sing along with music. This is what Broadway Diva, currently being performed at The Butterfly Club as part of an extended tour, gives us. We don't get the dinner, but what this show does give us is a Rat Pack quality hour of song any smoky 1950's restaurant would be proud of.

Whilst we don't get the comfy booth and waiters on hand with endless champagne at the ready, Broadway Diva gives us a songstress extraordinaire (Olivia Ruggiero), a pianist (Mark Bradley) of the highest quality, AND a shiny white baby grand piano! I know! How did they get it up all those stairs???

I mention the piano because anybody who knows music knows these people mean business. The difference in tonal quality between a grand piano and an upright is immense. Grand pianos bring depth and gravitas which is exactly what a classically trained vocalist like Ruggiero needs to match her skill and the diversity of her performance. Oh, and it looks hot!!!!

Broadway Diva is a show which brings old time glamour to a musical medley which spans musical theatre standards, opera classics, and modern surprises. All of this is performed with a big bag full of personality and humour by Ruggiero.

I can't express how relieved and excited I was when Ruggiero hit her first high note and I realised I was in the hands of a real singer. It is still ridiculously rare for cabaret/musical theatre performers to bother training in bel canto and also for opera singers to explore the world of musical theatre. As a listener, I have to say my heart sored when I realised Ruggiero was not going to struggle and go squeaky in those moments when voice meets our bodies.

Ruggiero has no qualms about any of it as she places Jesus Christ Superstar right next to Gianni Schicchi and reveals how both genres are but sisters on a spectrum. The truly glorious moments of Broadway Diva are those times when Ruggiero hits her soprano stride. The mic is retracted as her lungs are allowed to carry those musical vibrations straight to our ears and into our soul. These are the moments when the piano and the voice are most in simpatico and those are the moments when we close our eyes and live in pure sound and beauty.

Having said that, the musical theatre medleys are fabulous. They are jaunty and saucey and Ruggiero delivers them with wit and a cheeky smile. Her version of 'Me and The Sky' is obviously one of her favourite moments and so it becomes one of ours. My favourites were 'I Don't Know How To Love Him' and 'O Mio Babbino Caro'. Ruggiero's rendition of 'I Dreamed a Dream' was intensely satisfying too.

I rarely find myself wanting encores at dinner style cabarets, but at the end of Broadway Diva I wanted to stand up and beg for 'On My Own' and 'Requiem'. I thank director Carly Fisher for cutting 'Defying Gravity' from the playlist. Many people would disagree with me but, like 'Creep', it has been done and done and done and done and done and if I hear either of them one more time, I may turn into an axe murderer.

Broadway Diva is exactly the kind of show which gives us time, space, and motivation to release the stressors of the day and just bathe in an aural bath of beautiful music. Add to that a cheeky cocktail or balloon of bubbly and suddenly we have a chance to remember times gone by - a time when life was slower and having fun was a priority, not an imposition. 

Broadway Diva reminds us what glamour looks like and sounds like. Indulge yourself.

4.5 Stars



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