Hugh Jackman on Broadway: back where he belongs

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The art of seduction — whether it be in romance, politics or showbiz — is simple: making you believe if only for a moment, that everything going on is just for you. This is the magic of “Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway,” which opened a 10-week run Thursday night.

Deep down, the show is little more than a movie star giving you a guided tour of his iPhone (here are my favorite songs, here’s some great video of where I came from) and make no mistake, the show is all about him — literally. It’s about his life and his career (special focus is given to his theater work, including starring in 2003’s “The Boy From Oz” and hosting the Tony Awards). It’s about his wife, his dad and even the minutia of his first high school audition where he played all eight parts from the first scene of “The Music Man.”

But for the show’s 120 minutes, Jackman makes just about everyone sitting in the Broadhurst Theatre feel as if the show is all about them.

Jackman interacts with a number of audience members each night, sitting on laps and bringing folks up on stage, but if you were to take a poll of people leaving the theater, it’s easy to imagine a healthy majority believing Jackman was actually performing his mélange of songs just for them.


Between his Cole Porter ditties, Rogers & Hammerstein classics, Peter Allen standards, even a snatch of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind,” one of the running jokes is how the people who run his blockbuster movie franchises don’t want him to do his song-and-dance show. The reasons he gives is that agents and studio execs want him to be bulking up to play superheroes, not athletically singing and dancing (not to mention conjuring memories of “Viva Laughlin”).

But the real reason Hollywood doesn’t want Jackman onstage is jealousy. With nothing more the some finely tailored pants and an onstage band, Jackman delivers as many genuine thrills as hundreds of millions of dollars worth of CGI effects. He’s a throwback to stars such as Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, who delivered special effects that the Hollywood of the 21st Century has forgotten how to generate. Jackman is starring in the upcoming film adaptation of the musical “Les Miz,” but it’s clear from “Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway” that the Hollywood musical that would showcase him best would be an MGM-esque, variety styled extravaganza. The extended sequence with Jackman hoofing along to the songs from those shows is by far the highpoint of the evening. The cinema’s loss is the theater’s gain.


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-- James C. Taylor in New York City