THE LEADING MEN: Broadway Is a Dream Come True Again for Hugh Jackman

By Brandon Voss
31 Oct 2011

Jackman in A Steady Rain.
photo by Joan Marcus

Your last Broadway show was A Steady Rain, a two-character drama with Daniel Craig. Did you go solo because he hogged the spotlight?
Hey, I invited him to come and be my understudy. I told him he could do all the matinees, but he wouldn't go for it.

How does it feel to be bringing this new show to Broadway?
Well, out of all the places in the world I've performed, my favorite is Broadway. There's something electric about it. The audiences are more intelligent, more enthusiastic, and it feels more like a conversation than anywhere else, which is a feeling I really love. I'm genuinely grateful for the opportunity, and I don't take it for granted at all. In fact, I just unearthed an Australian TV interview I did back in 1996 — I'd forgotten about it, but someone sent it to me — where I was walking around Times Square for some reason, saying something like, "I hope one day I can be here; it would be a dream come true," so Broadway's been a long time coming. Nothing compares to Broadway. The Broadway audiences expect excellence and they expect blood, which I agree with. You need to lay everything out there on the stage. Overall, I feel that the Broadway audience is on your side. They also want to have a great night, and if you don't give it to them, you're sure going to hear about it.

How has the show evolved since your limited concert engagements in Toronto and San Francisco?
I don't want to give too much away, but we've certainly boosted the manpower. It's called a one-man show, but it's far from it; besides the 18-piece orchestra, I have a number of other performers up there with me. There's deliberately a relative simplicity to the structure, but what we have now really pops. There's a lot more pizzazz, and that's fitting for Broadway.

Speaking of pizzazz, do you revisit songs from The Boy From Oz?
Peter Allen actually makes a comeback, sequins and all, which I really enjoy.

You've also notably appeared in Sunset Boulevard, Beauty and the Beast and Oklahoma! in either Australia or the West End. Do you revisit songs from each of those musicals?
It's not a rule that I do something from everything I've done, but you might hear something from some of those shows. I do songs from other musicals I've been in, musicals I've always wanted to be in, some standards, some rock and roll, and a couple of medleys, including a big dance number that's my ode to Broadway. The show's eclectic, just like my musical tastes.

Jackman in Oklahoma!

Which part of the show do you look forward to the most?
That's impossible for me to answer, because I love everything. I have a rule: As each song starts, I need to feel like, Oh, my God, I can't wait to sing this and share this. If I didn't feel that, the song wouldn't make the show. In San Francisco, I started out feeling that way about some songs but didn't feel that way by the end, so I took them out and put something new in.

Which part of the show do you find most challenging?
Two songs are particularly challenging. One is the movie musical medley, which at seven and a half minutes is vocally and physically challenging. I think that's why I lose about three or four pounds a night, even though I've been eating like a madman. My suit got taken in three or four times in Toronto. I also sing "Soliloquy" from Carousel, which is one of the greatest musical theatre songs ever written, and it always requires you to be at your best as a singer and an actor.

Roles often require you to put on an English or American accent. Is it a relief to perform in your native Australian tongue?
Totally. Since I was young, I've always been comfortable on a stage. You might assume that means I'm a showoff, but I really don't feel like I am; I just feel at home onstage. So to actually be onstage as myself is really freeing, and hopefully in some ways it's more powerful. By the end of every night, I feel really intimate with the audience. I feel like I've shared things with them, and somehow they've shared things with me too.