There’s no getting around it: Hugh Jackman is the ultimate entertainer. He can take a cheesy Las Vegas-style concert and make it feel sincere and look stunning. Backed by an 18-piece orchestra and some back-up girls, he puts the rest of Broadway to shame in his extremely polished and supremely enjoyable one-man song-and-dance show. Nay, let’s call it a one-man spectacular.
The Aussie star first appeared on Broadway in the 2003 Peter Allen bio musical The Boy from Oz. Oh sure, the show was laughably corny, but Jackman embraced his character’s gleeful flamboyance and shined like a superstar. Needless to say, it was quite a turnaround from his moody and violent portrayal of Wolverine in the X-Men film franchise. More recently, Jackman returned to Broadway in the 2009 drama A Steady Rain alongside Daniel Craig. The most exciting part of that dreary play occurred when Jackman auctioned off his undershirt during the curtain call.
This one-man show, which Jackman previously performed in San Francisco and Toronto, happened to come to Broadway simply because a gap appeared in his schedule when production on the latest Wolverine flick got postponed.
The show, which is packed with showstopper after showstopper, is essentially a love letter to Broadway, Hollywood musicals and at times his Australian background. He starts off singing the opening notes of “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from offstage and closes the first act with a glorious rendition of “Soliloquy” from Carousel. It’s a pleasure to report that his rich voice is in pitch-perfect shape.
He confesses that movie execs are concerned about how his penchant for dancing may affect his screen image. Yet he throws caution to the wind, paying tribute to Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, breaking into “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” and throwing in plenty of pelvic thrusts for good measure.
At the top of act two, he reenters in a gold jumpsuit as Peter Allen. After sitting on the laps of audience members sitting in the box seats, he swings back to the stage and does a dazzling medley of Allen’s hits. In case you were wondering, he even shakes the maracas in “I Go to Rio.”
His downbeat tribute to the Australian Aborigines, complete with didgeridoo players, could probably have been scrapped. But in light of the extreme excitement of the rest of the show, we could probably all use the breather.
So far as audience participation goes, Jackman brought only one audience member to the stage, but he does frequently address those sitting in the front few rows with adlibs. No matter where you sit in the Broadhurst Theatre, you will definitely feel Jackman’s star power.