Tuesday, December 13, 2011

“Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway” – The Tony-winning X-Man pulls out all the stops for his triumphant return to the Great White Way

Review by Mark A. Newman
Photos by Joan Marcus
If you pass by the Broadhurst Theatre on West 44th Street and wonder why so many of the audience members light up a cigarette as they leave after witnessing Hugh Jackman’s one man show, Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway, it’s because the Aussie action star/song and dance man doesn’t just engage an audience, he flirts, entices, teases, cajoles, and essentially engages in theatrical foreplay with the audience. And trust me, it was good for them too!
Jackman is a big, blockbuster-opening movie star who doesn’t need to ever step foot on a Broadway stage just to make a buck; he’s back on Broadway for a limited 10-week run because he wants to be there based on his love of live theatre…and it shows. For two hours the audience is taken on a rollicking tour through Jackman’s musical favorites from classic Broadway showstopping toe-tappers to the movie musicals of Hollywood’s golden era, all the way to the Peter Allen tunes that won him a Tony for best actor in a musical in The Boy from Oz in 2004.
Far from being a simple vanity project, Jackman is performing music that he loves and he wants you to love it too. He wants you to love him too. He’s rugged, handsome, funny, smart, self-deprecating, and has got to be one of the most talented and versatile entertainers alive. And guess what? You will end up loving him -- you won’t be able to help yourself. For two hours solid, Jackman effortlessly sings and dances up a storm. In between he tells stories of this or that show, as well as his childhood and how he happened upon acting (to meet girls, of course).
One of Jackman’s most endearing tales was about how determined he was to get a role in a production of The Music Man because his all-boys school was doing a co-production with an all-girls school. He got a copy of the script and memorized the entire opening number…all EIGHT roles, which he ably demonstrates. The number then devolves into a rap bit. Corny? No doubt, but the audience ate it up with a spoon!
The first act treats the audience to a New York City medley, then a “golden age of Hollywood musical” medley as well as big numbers of the classics canon (“Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’” from Oklahoma and “Soliloquy” from Carousel). The second act opens with the aforementioned Peter Allen medley in which Jackman adopts the flamboyant singer’s persona and flirts with specific male audience members.
He is backed up by a fierce and tight orchestra led by Patrick Vaccariela as well as the talents of a half dozen lovely ladies who dance and sing with the star throughout his trip down musical memory lane.
However, if I had a bone to pick—and as a critic, I obviously do—my ONLY complaint would be the song selection. It was a bit dated. The most contemporary tunes were the Peter Allen songs and those were from the early 1980s. While I certainly didn’t expect a Lady GaGa medley or the latest Justin Bieber tune, it would have been nice for Jackman to extend his range just a tad, instead of playing it extremely safe.
When he mentioned his upcoming starring role in the movie version of Les Miserables, I could feel the anticipation building that he might perform some tunes from that musical phenomenon, but alas he did not. He could have at least given his audience the debut of Jean Valjean’s heart-rending ballad “Bring Him Home.” Is that too much to ask? I guess we’ll just have to wait until the film is released next December. Yeah, I’ll be there opening night.
Hugh Jackman, you’re such a tease.

Hugh Jackman: Back on BroadwayBroadhurst Theatre235 West 44th Street
Starring: Hugh Jackman. Featuring: Robin Campbell, Kearran Giovanni, Anne Otto, Lara Seibert, Hilary Michael Thompson, and Emily Tyra.
Scenic Consultant: John Lee BeattyCostume Design: William Ivey LongLighting Design: Ken BillingtonSound Design: John ShiversVideo Design: Alexander V. NicholsMusic Directon: Patrick VaccarielloDirected and choreographed by Warren Carlyle
For Ticket or Information: www.hughjackmanonbroadway.com/
Running time: 2 hours, with one intermission
Closes January 1, 2012

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