Hugh Jackman makes his return to Broadway this fall with a new production, but fans who know him primarily as an actor may be surprised by what they hear.
Backed by an 18-piece orchestra, Jackman takes the stage of the Broadhurst Theatre in “Hugh Jackman Back on Broadway” singing a collection of his favorite musical numbers. Previews begin on October 25, and the show opens on November 10 for a 10-week run that ends on New Year’s Day.
With director Darren Aronofsky’s March departure from the next Jackman-heavy “X-Men” installment, “The Wolverine,” the actor decided to take advantage of the ensuing delays in production to embark on a journey back to his musical roots, ultimately landing at the Broadhurst for his limited run show.
“Back on Broadway” started earlier this year as “Hugh Jackman in Concert,” which went through some fine tuning during its two week run in San Francisco this May and in Toronto for two weeks in July. In the show, he serenaded audiences with everything from Gene Kelly tunes to songs from his Broadway run in “The Boy from Oz” to traditional aboriginal pieces from his native Australia.
Leor Zahavi, founder and CEO of the New York-based ticket brokerage Admit One, told TicketNews that he believes Jackman has the charisma and talent to pull it off, but is wary about making predictions at this point. “We haven’t seen much activity (in ticket sales) yet. However, I will say that I saw him in ‘The Boy from Oz’ and I thought he was terrific. He’s an incredible entertainer. The guy genuinely appears to enjoy what he’s doing on stage.
“As far as how [the show is] going to sell, that’s kind of hard to say. A lot of shows that I’ve loved personally have not translated into big hits. It’s been the same the other way around…there are shows that I haven’t necessarily loved and they’ve turned out to be big hits.”
Fans who know Jackman primarily from the “X-Men” movie franchise may not be aware that the performer began his career in musical theater. After study at Sydney’s Actors’ Centre and Perth’s Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, he starred in local Melbourne productions of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Sunset Boulevard.” In 1998, he took the role of Curly in a national production of “Oklahoma” which eventually made it to London’s West End. He reprised this role for the 1999 film version of the musical.
But what broke Jackman through was his 2003-04 critically acclaimed starring role in the Peter Allen bio, “The Boy from Oz.” The role earned Jackman the 2004 Tony Award for Best Actor, and it made him a household name among Broadway fans.
During the last decade, Jackman has been quite busy in films as well, appearing as Wolverine in all five “X-Men” films. It was Jackman’s involvement with the “X-Men” franchise that finally turned his celebrity global, with roles in other films like “Kate and Leopold” opposite Meg Ryan, and “Swordfish” with John Travolta and Halle Berry, only increasing his star power.
This fall, Jackman brings his star power to Broadway for the first time since his 2009 limited run opposite Daniel Craig in “A Steady Rain.” The show garnered mixed reviews for the play, but nearly unanimous acclaim for the duo.
And it is that star power, along with proven musical theater chops and years of experience on the stage, that give this next Jackman vehicle a good chance at success.
“I met a woman who told me she saw ‘A Steady Rain’ with Hugh Jackman,” producer Ken Davenport, head of Davenport Theatrical, told TicketNews. “She said she thought he was fantastic. ‘How was the play?’ I asked. ‘Who cares?’ she responded.
“I think Hugh’s fans would pay to see him hold a phonebook . . . he wouldn’t even have to read it.”