REVIEW: Guest Reviewer Hamavand Engineer Shares His Thoughts On BROADWAY DIVA


By: May. 29, 2023
REVIEW: Guest Reviewer Hamavand Engineer Shares His Thoughts On BROADWAY DIVA

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 Oliva 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, Oliva 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. 

Qtopia - The Journey to Sydney’s own queer museum (

Broadway Diva | Theatre Travels

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From This Author - Jade Kops

Jade is an Aviation Safety Training Instructor with a love of Theatre, Cabaret, Musical Theatre, and music and is a committed advocate for the live performing arts industry in Sydney and Australia. Si... Jade Kops">(read more about this author)


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