An action star who scored on Broadway as hip-swiveling gay singer Peter Allen?
That’s just one of the unusual textures that make Hugh Jackman such a fascinating performer, and he’s amply aware of that.
In Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway, the master showman gleefully does snippets from “I Feel Pretty” and even sings “One Night Only” backed by three “Dreamgirls,” but he also talks a lot about his wife and makes a remark about how he couldn’t wait to do a play in a girl’s school when he was a kid. (Of course, that could be interpreted in several ways, ba dum pum.)
What ties Hugh’s various threads together is that he’s a natural-born charmer who has an effortless way with a song, a dance, and some wacky audience interaction involving clicking along with your fingers or yelling “I got …” (Mortgage your house, get a premium seat, and find out the rest for yourself.)
This is not a confessional show plumbing the depths of Hugh’s soul to get to the dark side of the smile.
It strives mainly to entertain, Jackman never flagging in his energy, whether doing a medley about not wanting to dance, during which he dances, or telling stories about how he landed various roles in his career.
(His first audition for X-Men was done while sporting his Oklahoma! perm. “I looked like my sister,” quips Hugh, smilingly adding that he didn’t care for that look.)
Some of his song choices are a little too familiar — an NYC medley seems pandering, even though he and the wife live here, and “Singin’ in the Rain,” complete with remarks about how great Gene Kelly was, could surely be scratched.
But Jackman’s “Soliloquy” from Carousel is moving and so is his “Tenterfield Saddler” (done as “boy from Oz” Peter Allen, who sings about his wife), plus his dreamy tribute to his native Australia, featuring aboriginal musicians.
Even without much heft, Jackman’s show is a smoothly packaged serving of a man who comes alive with a large orchestra and some slides.
Until the right book musical comes along, this is a nice way to soak in his multi textures.