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Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway
How many entertainers can you name who can command a Broadway stage singing, dancing and telling stories for a couple of hours —and leave the audience with a shivery thrill because they were there? I can guess that in well over a century folks can list certain blockbuster, all-around entertainers like Sammy Davis, Jr., Judy Garland, Peter Allen, but today there are . . . no, there is Hugh Jackman. Period.
Jackman is a mix of great assets but the total package adds up to CHARISMA. In a show briskly paced by director/choreographer Warren Carlyle, Jackman tackles some energetic dance segments. Jackman is not the dancer that his idols, Astaire and Kelly, were. But he moves with buoyancy, grace, a lithe and limber body, and legs long enough to join a Rockettes kick line. When he says that because of an upcoming Wolverine film, he has to bulk up and since dancing takes off weight, he declares he’s “Never Gonna Dance.” This unsurprisingly leads to a medley of terp tunes like, “I Won’t Dance,” “Do I Hear a Waltz?” and “Shake Your Bootie.”
Jackman’s energy never quits and Carlyle uses every bit with a rollicking Golden Age of Movie Musicals tunefest that builds to dizzying speeds. It whizzes from “Luck Be A Lady” to “I Got Rhythm” to the surging express of “Sing, Sing, Sing.”
If not the best singer ever (there's a noticeable nasality) Jackman does have strong pipes, and belts to the last row of the Broadhurst Theatre. He starts off strolling on stage with an a cappella delivery of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!” from Oklahoma! With a selection of standards, Jackman proves “I Happen to Like New York” although he retains a strong tie to his native Australia. At the end of the show, he brings on four natives of the Outback — Olive Knight, Clifton Bieundurry, Paul Boon and Nathan Mundraby — who help him with a unique, moody interpretation of “Over the Rainbow.”
Though there aren't many ballads, Jackman does offer up a poignant rendition of Peter Allen’s autobiographical, “Tenterfield Saddler." His most notable singing moment comes just before the end of Act I, when he illustrates how compellingly he interprets a thoughtful theater song. He precedes this with an anecdote about his father’s trip to New York to see Jackman’s salute to Richard Rodgers at Carnegie Hall. Jackman then delivers “Soliloquy” from Carousel with conversational informality, painting a portrait of the conflicted ne’er do well Billy Bigelow, bewildered about his impending fatherhood.
Add to the Jackman pizzazz a penchant for articulate story-telling, a sense of humor often turned on himself, and most important, an evident love for what he’s doing on stage. This is a showman, a ham in the tastiest sense, irresistible to sample for the infectious charm that draws together everybody in the theater.
Even with Patrick Vaccariello’s robust 18-piece orchestra and six young dancing girls, this is Hugh Jackman’s party and he is a full-time host. EXxcept for the intermission he's always onstage — singing, dancing, talking, schmoozing with the audience. Encouraging audience participation, he even calls a flushed “Buster” to the stage, who tries his darnest to get some Jackman-like hip action going to a finger-snapping “Fever.” Opening Act II, slinky in Peter Allen skintight gold lamé, Jackman pops into a box and shares a little lap-dance with a grey-haired lady of a certain age.
The king of the Broadway stage these days is a real likeable guy who has a lot to give and gives it all. It’s Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway, and for him, it’s home. For us, it’s a treat.
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