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Divorce - The Musical

Paige Mulholland

As a host, Em Rusciano is chaotic and in-your-face, but in the best way possible.
Divorce - The Musical

In her latest venture, Em Rusciano explores the event that changed her family, her life and her self-image as she knew it – her divorce. But despite the melancholy subject matter, the show is hilarious, awkward, and absolutely resonates with the audience.

Rather than a traditional musical, Rusciano’s performance is a cabaret confessional, where she vents all the heartbreak, embarrassment and absurdity of her recent split. This show is the ultimate way to spend any ladies’ night out, but is probably not the best accompaniment for an evening with a heterosexual male. With her talk of puberty problems, dating, motherhood and crying on the floor in her wedding dress, it’s definitely a female-focused show, but any woman who has been on the receiving end of a breakup will find her observations spot-on.

As a host, Rusciano is chaotic and in-your-face, but in the best way possible. She’s able to roll with the punches of a catcalling, energetic front row, and has the audience so thoroughly onside that they let her share their wine. Her stories are often tangential and disorganised, but this just adds to the casual, post-breakup-vent-with-a-gal-pal atmosphere that you expect from the title of the show.

As Rusciano mentions during the show many times, she’s come a long way musically since her days on Australian Idol. Covering songs by modern artists such as Pink, Miley Cyrus and Emeli Sandé, she has a gutsy, strong voice, and, despite a few questionable breathing choices, excellent technique. Cyrus was definitely a controversial choice, but her emotional and mature interpretation (and her decision not to ride bareback on a wrecking ball) gave the song excellent emotional depth. Although Rusciano’s energy and humour kept the audience enthused and excited, her attempts to get the audience up and dancing mostly fell a little flat (at a seven o’clock show, most audiences are still a little too inhibited to get off their seats and boogie).

After recently losing her guitarist, Rusciano performs with her father, Vincie, on guitar. Despite the very personal, sexual subject matter about his daughter, Vincie takes it all in his stride and works comfortably and expertly, both in terms of musical accompaniment and by throwing in the occasional one-liner. The relationship between the two is heart-warming, and Vincie adds an air of authenticity to a show that constantly, fabulously borders on over-the-top.

It’s fortunate that Rusciano is such a strong and attention-grabbing performer, because her costumes would surely have overwhelmed a lesser host. Ranging from a garish, sparkly mini-wedding-dress to a number that looks like Miley Cyrus and a Vegas showgirl had a baby, the costumes, designed by Rusciano’s ‘drag queen seamstress’, Pollyfilla, are kitschy, gaudy perfection.

From strange Tindr encounters to heart-wrenching conversations with her children, Rusciano covers every facet of her divorce with the perfect balance of humour and sensitivity. Anyone who has seen Rusciano on the Australian media scene and wondered who she is beneath the flamboyant outfits will get their answer, as well as more flamboyant outfits, in Divorce – The Musical.

Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 stars

Divorce – The Musical
Presented by Onya Soapbox
Written and performed by Em Rusciano

Garden of Unearthly Delights, Paradiso Spiegeltent, Rundle Park
Adelaide Fringe
8 March

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Paige Mulholland is an arts administrator who is based in Adelaide and has a background in musical theatre, music and dance.