Hugh Jackman opened on Broadway last night in his one man show. I caught the Wednesday matinee instead of the usual opening night–had to be away for a family occasion. The matinee crowd loved Hugh. You’ll love Hugh. He is as corny as a cornfield, sort of John Davidson meets Barry Manilow. This isn’t a bad thing to say, but Hugh could play Vegas for months without ever having an empty seat in the theater. Whether he’s in formal attire and tails, or gold lame, Jackman cannot stop smiling broadly. He is happy for two hours, in his element.
It makes you wonder about “Wolverine” and “X Men.” How can he both people? As he says in the show, the song and dance Hugh is his favorite. And give him credit. He sings his heart out to show tunes. There’s nothing fake about it. He belts out his songs, tap dances, sashays into the audience to play with unwitting fans. (Though I do think one woman sitting in the front row is a plant, but that’s ok.)
My favorite part of the show: Jackman brings out Olive Knight an indigenous gospel/blues singer from Wangkatjungka in the Australian outback, with a group of fellow musicians. They perform the Hawaiian version of “Over the Rainbow” using aboriginal instruments, and Jackman talks about the plight of Knight’s people. I wish there’d been more of that and less of the shlocky Peter Allen songs. But Hugh and his crew know what they’re doing–and the audience just loves him.
PS Folks from NBC were in the audience. My bet is we’ll see this as a filmed TV special in February, sweeps month. And why not? The peacock network has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Hugh Jackman as Andy Williams channeling Gene Kelly has a lot of promise.