Well, folks, it seems almost definite that Hugh Jackman will be Billy Bigelow in the concert version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel that is scheduled for presentation at Carnegie Hall on Thursday, June 6, at 7pm, with Leonard Slatkin conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke's. Jackman has already gone on record as saying that he wants the part, but TheaterMania has learned that it has actually been offered to him and that he will no doubt accept it barring any major disagreements over contract issues.
In another, closely related bit of good news, we hear that three-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald may very well be Jackman's Julie Jordan in the concert. McDonald, of course, won the first of her Tonys for her featured performance as Carrie Pipperidge in the Lincoln Center Theater's 1994 production of Carousel, directed by Nicholas Hytner.
The 33-year-old Hugh Jackman was born in Sydney, Australia. Though he has become quite a big movie star over the last couple of years through his appearances in X-Men, Swordfish, and Kate and Leopold, he began his career in musical theater, appearing in his homeland as Gaston in Beauty and the Beast and as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard. He then earned rave reviews for his performance as Curly in the Royal National Theater of London's acclaimed production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Susan Stroman. That production is coming to Broadway this season but without Jackman, presumably because his burgeoning film career prohibits his signing even a six-month theater contract. However, Jackman has been mentioned as a strong possibility for the central role of Bobby in the upcoming, limited-run production of Stephen Sondheim's Company at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, one of six Sondheim shows to be staged at the center this spring and summer in a major celebration of that great composer-lyricist's oeuvre.
Following her star-making appearance in Carousel at Lincoln Center, Audra McDonald won Tony Awards for her featured performances in Master Class and Ragtime; she was also nominated in 2000 for her leading role in Marie Christine. McDonald played Deena Jones in the all-star concert version of Dreamgirls at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in September 2001. She appeared as Grace Farrell in the ABC-Disney TV version of Annie and was recently seen and heard in the telecast of the Kennedy Center Honors, performing "I Could Have Danced All Night" in a tribute to Julie Andrews.
John Weidman is adapting the script of Carousel for the Carnegie Hall concert presentation, which will be directed by Walter Bobbie. The show originally opened on Broadway in 1945, with John Raitt and Jan Clayton as Billy and Julie. The 1955 film version stars Gordon Mac Rae and Shirley Jones. Said to have been Rodgers' own personal favorite of his works, the score includes such songs as "If I Loved You," "You'll Never Walk Alone," and "June is Bustin' Out all Over."
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