Jackman returns with all the right contacts

Hugh Jackman has the greenlight to do whatever the spirit moves him to do when he returns to host the Tonys for a second year.

Counting on the star to woo TV viewers with his charismatic performance style (“he talks to the audience, he plays with people, he stops the show”), executive producer Ricky Kirshner is prepared to “let Hugh be real and just do his thing.”

While they’re at it, somebody better hide his contact lenses. “I did do a little bit of ad-libbing last year,” Jackman says, “but that was mainly because I am quite short-sighted, and when I went out on the stage for a quick rehearsal I couldn’t read the auto cues. It was like being at the optometrist’s and being asked to read the last line on the reading chart.

“My big fear was of going out there and looking, as we say in Australia, like a stunned mullet, which is that stunned look you get when you catch a fish and bash him on the head. So, anyway, when I did the show, I just said whatever came into my head.”

This year, he says, he’s got contacts.

This year, he also goes into the show with his own hard-earned Tony nomination, for his star turn in the Peter Allen salute “The Boy From Oz.” Which means that he won’t lose sleep over the other performer’s nightmare that bedeviled him before the 2003 awards show.

“I hadn’t even started rehearsals for ‘The Boy From Oz’ last June,” he says. “My greatest fear was that the Broadway community would resent me as an outsider. I was afraid that people would think I was this wiseguy who had come from nowhere, who had never been on Broadway before, who was just muscling his way in.”

Genial host that he was the first time, Jackman promises to throw another lively party this year, with a few surprises thrown in for fun — something that “adds to the feeling of excitement that comes from being at a live show.”

Perhaps a dance number with the Rockettes? “Well,” he says, “I am playing Peter Allen, and Peter Allen did play Radio City Music Hall. So, am I going to be dancing with the Rockettes? I’m going to leave it all as a surprise.”

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