Hugh Jackman: The Man, The Music, The Show
Saturday 25th May 2019
The show is billed Hugh Jackman: The Man, The Music, The Show - but really The Man, The Musicals, The Show would be more fitting.
Because this eagerly-awaited gig is really a showcase for Jackman’s stage presence and skills - honed before he got the Wolverine gig that turned him into one of Hollywood’s most bankable action stars.
Before that big break, Jackman was mostly known for his stage roles - such as Curly in the National Theatre’s 1998 production of Oklahoma!, with a bit of Beauty and the Beast and Sunset Boulevard in his native Australia thrown in for good measure.
Following his big screen comic-book breakthrough, Jackman returned to the stage with a memorable, Tony-winning turn as Peter Allan in The Boy From Oz on Broadway in 2004.
In recent years it’s been the big screen musical hits of Les Miserables and The Greatest Showman, portraying Jean Valjean and PT Barnum respectively, that have won Jackman his musicals megastar status - and no doubt provided the impetus for this world tour
Indeed you only have to look at the audience to see that here is a performer who appeals to all demographics. From girls' nights out to middle-aged couples to small children dressed up in ringmaster garb, it’s rare to see such a mixed bunch making up a 17,000 strong sell-out Manchester Arena audience.
To call Jackman a true showman feels cliched now, but that’s exactly what he is. An old-fashioned hoofer/crooner/matinee idol.
Opening with a barnstorming rendition of The Greatest Show, Jackman struts around the stage with his dancers and the screams almost drown him out.
He invited his Greatest Showman co-star Keala Settle out to perform the now-iconic anthem This Is Me - and boy did she bring down the house! A genuinely moving moment.
Act 1 is packed with great songs, including Gaston (Beauty and the Beast - complete with the technical tankard-tapping choreography from the show), You Will Be Found (Dear Evan Hanson - with help from Preston's One Voice Choir) Soliloquy and One Day More from Les Mis, alongside anecdotes about Jackman’s life and career (including a heartfelt tribute to his wife of over 20 years, Deborra-Lee Furness.
But it’s in Act 2 that things really step up a gear and when Jackman really displays the confidence and charm that made him such a star of stage and screen; when he breaks out the sequins and unleashes his Peter Allen Boy From Oz persona in all his camp, charismatic glory.
Perhaps less well known to some of the audience, this is where you really see Jackman’s natural showmanship come alive, his off-the-cuff quips and pointed asides captivating the audience, as well as songs like the Oscar-winning Arthur's Song and I Go to Rio.
His Allen was a hard act to follow, but Jackman manages it with a toe-tapping homage to the golden movie musicals he grew up with - Singin’ In The Rain, Guys and Dolls (Luck Be A Lady), and a barnstorming tap and drum breakout number to classic modern hits - earning laughs and cheers for the Wolverine pose with drumsticks. “Let’s see Ryan Reynolds do that” says Jackman - alluding to his mock Twitter feud with his fellow action star and friend.
The night ends with From Now On and Once Before I Go (with Jackman giving the crowd the heads up that there were two songs to go, in case anyone wanted to beat the rush to the car park
The show was a lovely celebration of Jackman’s family, upbringing, native Australia, career and musical inspirations and the chance to see a true entertainer prove he really does live up to the hype.
And mention also has to go to the show credits that rolled on the big screens after Jackman had departed the stage - the first time I’ve ever seen this at a live show. Classy to the very end.
Hugh Jackman: The Man, The Music, The Show plays Birmingham, Dublin and London through to early June. Various dates and venues. See https://www.hughjackmantheshow.com/ for full details.