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Is there a market Hugh Jackman has yet to capture? Streaming into the Hydro at the start of the Tony award-winning actor’s lengthy world tour are fans of the X-Men, lovers of romantic comedies, admirers of musical theatre, people who want to marry him – and the rest who want to be him. “I hope you’re not only Wolverine fans because it could be a long night,” he quips after his superhero alter ego appears on the big screen behind him.
Such self-awareness is part of his charm, as is his willingness to engage directly with the audience, making a 13,000-capacity venue seem intimate. If he is acting that smile at the end of his first number, it is acting of the highest order. He looks to be genuinely delighted. Of course, he can turn on the celebrity pizzazz, but he remembers to turn it off again too. “It’s so good to be in a place where you’re finally called Shuggie,” he tells the Glasgow crowd with a winning grin.
You can only wonder at the permutations he must have considered in putting together a show that would appeal to all the people all the time. He succeeds – and rather brilliantly – by drawing on the great mix-and-match tradition of variety. Channelling the light-entertainment spirit of Peter Allen, the Australian singer-songwriter of the 1970s and 80s, he fronts a song-and-dance spectacular that skips merrily through his career, alighting on choice showbiz anecdotes along the way.
Under the direction of Warren Carlyle, he opens – how else? – with The Greatest Show, the rousing opener of The Greatest Showman with its We Will Rock You rhythms and chant-along chorus. He does so, standing atop an illuminated staircase in silver suit, black bowtie and cummerbund – only the first of several costumes. It’s not long before he’s trotting along the central walkway backed by a full orchestra and 10 singer-dancers who look to be having as much fun as he is.
If it is sometimes gauche, sentimental or cheesy, it is unashamedly so, performed with too much honesty and joy to get snobby about. Jackman is a good enough actor to play it straight in the humourless songs from Les Misérables, to be knockabout with numbers from Beauty and the Beast and Hollywood’s golden age, and to be forthright when he serenades his wife, the actor and producer Deborra-Lee Furness who gamely offers her best imitation of a Glasgow accent in return. He does chorus numbers, solo ballads and tap dancing (although holding off until after his Singin’ in the Rain).
Neither is he above handing over the stage to his fellow performers. Having started Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s You Will Be Found seated alone at a piano, he finds himself joined by the 50-strong SoundSational community choir who make concrete the song’s refrain of “You are not alone”. Later in the show, he recalls a teenage spiritual awakening in the outback before welcoming a group of Indigenous Australian performers, among them Olive Knight singing of reconciliation in her language, Walmajarri.
All this gives shape, texture and soul to a show that’s as slick as it is human. But if the audience adore Jackman, they positively venerate Keala Settle, who turns up in a spangly cape to take the roof off with a rendition of This Is Me that sends the emotional temperature rocketing.
Source: The Guardian
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