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Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway

The Tony Award-winning star's two-hour singing-and-dancing extravaganza is simply astonishing. logo
A scene from Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway
(© Joan Marcus)
Audiences are familiar with the sort of superhuman feats that Hugh Jackman's character Wolverine (from the X-Men movies) can achieve on screen, but for the next few weeks -- in his limited engagement show Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway, playing at the Broadhurst Theatre -- theatergoers can experience something more astonishing than anything that Hollywood's special effects could ever accomplish. Jackman delivers a high-octane two-hour singing and dancing extravaganza and barely seems to break a sweat.

During the course of the show, laced with personal anecdotes (sometimes supported by Alexander V. Nichols' terrific projections/video), Jackman holds the stage with an ease so natural that it becomes almost eerie. Not only can he dance up a storm with precision (the fast-paced direction and choreography are by Warren Carlyle), he can sing with both grace and power.

His rendition of "Soliloquy" from Carousel is particularly accomplished and he closes a tribute to Peter Allen (the singer/songwriter he portrayed to Tony Award-winning effect in The Boy From Oz) with a deeply felt take on Allen's painful autobiographical song "Tenterfield Saddler."

Jackman's deftness with these two dramatic numbers is only matched by the sparkle he brings to the show's lighter segments, including the Allen sequence in which he knots his gold shirt (lovely costumes from William Ivey Long) at his navel, seemingly channeling Heather Locklear's Sammy Jo from Dynasty at her sluttiest.

He's equally amusing with the Fred Astaire hit "I Won't Dance," which he introduces by saying that by not dancing, he'll be able to retain at least some of the bulk he needs for his onscreen superhero alterego. The number quickly becomes a dizzying, and delightful, medley that includes "I Feel Pretty," "But Not for Me," "Do I Hear a Waltz?," "Begin the Beguine," "Oklahoma," "That's Entertainment," "Let's Face the Music and Dance," "Sing (Sing a Song)," "I Feel a Song Coming On," and even, "Shake Your Booty." (That these diverse songs -- and many others -- can comfortably live next to one another in a single segment is a tribute to Patrick Vaccariello's fine music direction.)

But, while such sequences induce smiles and genuine appreciation for Jackman's indefatigable showmanship (he ends this latter medley by performing a solo Rockettes-style kick-line), it's the improvised sections of the show that induce the biggest laughs. A bit of audience participation during the Peggy Lee classic "Fever" proved to be truly charming at a recent press preview, and the way in which Jackman integrated not only a sequined coat from an audience member sitting in the front row, but also someone from backstage was hilarious. Jackman even found time to engage the audience in a sing-along of "Happy Birthday" for one of the six singer-dancers who share the stage with him periodically.

Impressively, Jackman even manages to integrate a tribute to the indigenous Aborigine people of his native Australia into the show, accompanying the sequence with a moving rendition of "Over the Rainbow." It's the sort of humanitarian showmanship that, when delivered by anyone less accomplished, might cloy. But with Jackman, it's simply enough to send the show -- and theatergoers' appreciation for Jackman's remarkable talents -- over the moon.

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