Superlatives are superfluous regarding “Hugh Jackman Back on Broadway,” which the song-and-dance man-turned-movie star has brought to the Broadhurst for 10 weeks. Jackman could at this point likely sell out any show on sheer force of celebrity, but as it turns out, his vehicle is up to his talents. The evening, seemingly assembled out of the star’s grab-bag of song favorites, demands Jackman’s all, and he surpasses expectations.
The show has been developed between gaps in Jackman’s shooting schedule for the next installment in the Wolverine franchise. “Hugh Jackman in Performance” preemed at the Curran in San Fran in May, at which point the performer received higher grades than the material, which seemed hastily assembled. A revamped “Hugh Jackman in Concert” was said to be much improved in July at the Prince of Wales in Toronto. This Broadway edition seems to be further refined.
The effect is heightened by the choice of the Shubert’s prime midsized house, the Broadhurst, which is some 500 seats smaller than the Rialto’s larger venues. Box office indicates the star could fill those houses as well, but here he is more up close and personal.
The proceedings have been devised to allow extensive interaction with the aud. Jackman invites a sing-along in the opening number, makes a few detours into the house, brings a patron onstage, and is happily chatty.
Show has been slickly assembled by a team headed by director-choreographer Warren Carlyle (“Follies”). Patrick Vaccariello leads the excellent 18-piece orchestra through usually swinging charts (some new, some old). Scenery is minimal, consisting mostly of the bandstand plus a movie screen that flies in and out. There is notably good work from lighting designer Ken Billington.
Six slinkily dressed girls offer window-dressing, which Jackman doesn’t seem to need. Also on hand are four members of Nomad Two Worlds, a Jackman-backed charity that supports Aboriginal culture. On “Over the Rainbow,” the star is accompanied by two didgeridoos; the result is magical. A salute to Hollywood musicals and a Peter Allen section also rock the house.
Word has it the show has been deemed ineligible for this season’s Tony Awards because it is technically a concert. But awards or not, what Hugh Jackman is doing on the stage of the Broadhurst clearly keeps the audience in the palm of his hand, and that’s entertainment.