Jackman has a more than capable musical theater voice that is as susceptible to a slightly sharp, native twang as any Nashville crooner's voice might be on pop numbers. However, when invested in a character, as he is in a powerfully felt "Soliloquy" from Carousel, Jackman brings out smoother tones that ride beautifully to the song's traditionally powerhouse crescendo.
He can also be quite effective on tender ballads. In a rich and moving moment late in the show, Jackman pays tribute to his Down Under homeland and its Aboriginal people, wresting every ounce of emotion from Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's poignant arrangement of "Over the Rainbow," accompanied by a pair of Australia's leading didgeridoo players. If other songs like "One Night Only" or a medley of movie hits don't land as well, it may have more to do with the choice of material than the performer's gifts.
In top physical shape (for the pending shoot of the next installment in his Wolverine film franchise), he engaged in enough struts and pelvic thrusts to split the seam of his pants, which he changed onstage to the delight of almost everyone in the house. There was not, however, much in the way of choreography that could solidly put dance in the song-and-dance-man role he so clearly relishes.
Wisely, Jackman also knows his audience and he plays to them shamelessly and cheerfully. He's a macho action star on screen who is not afraid to be a fey, albeit heterosexual, show queen on stage -- a conflicting continuum he poked fun at throughout the evening. In fact, the second half of the intermission-free evening included highlights from The Boy From Oz that had Jackman prancing through the house in a white beaded blouse knotted at the waist and dripping in gleeful high camp 'tude that would be offensive coming from another macho movie star.
A generous performer, he also regularly points out the gifts of his colleagues on stage, which include some soaring sounds from Broadway star Merle Dandridge and slick moves from Angel Reda as his back-up girls (plus a surprise guest appearance by rocker Richard Marx for a duet on "I'll Be Right Here Waiting For You") and expert musical direction -- not to mention a couple of punch lines -- from Patrick Vaccariello.
He also radiates a genuine humility and gratitude for all the fun he's clearly having. And you'll be thankful for being there as well.