Cabaret Festival Review: Em Rusciano – Difficult Woman

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Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed 9thJune 2018

‘Behind every strong man is a strong woman. But what is behind the strong woman?’

Em Rusciano is fast becoming one of the most popular, talented, and benevolent entertainers in Australia.

It was with baited breath that the full-house of the Festival Theatre awaited for her arrival on stage. The eager audience were not disappointed. Bursting on to the stage in a red jumpsuit and black knee-high boots, Em opened the show with Kesha’s Woman. After a rockstar performance that had her dancing energetically around the stage, she left the stage and did it all again for the benefit of the late-comers! The second time was even better than the first.

She talked about strong females – Oprah Winfrey and Madonna – and took us back to the 80’s, where a young Rusciano stood at a John Farnham concert patiently waiting for the Australian singer to whisk her away as his ‘child bride’. Her stand up was sidespittlingly funny, brilliantly offensive, and completely down to earth. She chatted self-deprecatingly about her Cesarean scar, her body image, and at one point, determined not to placed on a podium, got on her hands and knees and drank spilt rosé from the dirty stage floor. That was the beauty; Em was every woman.

Rusciano also took the opportunity to discuss the recent negative press attention she has received in Sydney. In a moving speech, she condemned the fact that, whilst opiniated and driven men are dubbed ‘strong leaders’, women with the same qualities are deemed ‘difficult’. The crowd cheered in agreement. Rusciano is the epitome of female empowerment.

Between swigs from her bottle of rosé, Rusciano gave powerhouse performances of Beyonce’s Crazy In Love, Madonna’s Express Yourself, and a moving rendition of John Farnham’s Help!. The audience could not get enough. After a short interval, which saw her change into a stunning red hoop-skirt with her signature sparkles, Em continued in a much more personal vein. Starting with a beautiful version of Tina Arena’s Chains, Em brought her parents up on stage to dance to Stevie Wonder’s Do I Do and also performed her own Versions of Me. The evening concluded with a stunning take on Feeling Good and the iconic I’m Every Woman.

Under the direction of well known Australian musical director Chong Lim, Rusciano was backed by an impeccable 18-piece band including, notably, Brett Garsed on the electric guitar. Special mention must also go to Rusciano’s ‘backing bitches’, Charmaine Jones, Joanna Arul Tropeano and Olivia Nathan, who gave faultless performances.

Em Rusciano is every bit of the word cabaret. At the end of the show, she asked her audience to tell ten friends about her, to further strengthen her ever-growing fan base. For their sake, I hope they listen.

Disclaimer: Em looked young and thin and did not ask for this to be said.

Reviewed by Ben Francis

Rating: 5/5

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About Author

At 18 years old, Ben’s training has taken him around Australia, and to Hong Kong, Paris and London, including on the West End and in The Royal Albert Hall. In 2016, Ben performed as a supporting lead in the State Opera of South Australia’s world premiere production of Cloudstreet!, under the direction of internationally-acclaimed director, Gale Edwards. Other credits include: You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown (Snoopy), The Little Mermaid (Prince Eric), Wizard of Oz (Scarecrow), Pirates of Penzance (Frederic) and Jesus Christ Superstar (Jesus), for which he earned a nomination for ‘Best Young Performer’ in the Adelaide Theatre Guide 2015/16 ‘Curtain Call’ Awards. Ben also performs regularly with Independent Theatre, with roles including Peter Pan in Peter and Alice, Mozart in Amadeus, and Sebastien in Brideshead Revisited. Ben is also the producer and lead vocalist of The 60 Four scaling the falsetto heights of Frankie Valli, Brian Wilson and other vocal groups of the 60’s. A skilled musician, Ben also enjoys musically directing and orchestrally conducting local productions, including: Bugsy Malone and 13! The Musical with Adelaide Youth Theatre.  Ben is a recent graduate of Scotch College, where he was Captain of Performing Arts, and achieved Dux of Combined Studies. Since establishing Promise Adelaide in 2014, he has provided opportunities for over 100 young performers whilst raising in excess of $19,000 for charity.

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