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Hugh Jackman Says ‘Greatest Showman’ Success Made Him Revive Stage Show

Hugh Jackman could have spent his hiatus between movies soaking up rays in Saint-Tropez.

Instead of lounging poolside, the movie star will return to the stage for a grueling series of arena performances that will take him across Europe, Australia, and the U.S. The upcoming musical extravaganza, “The Man. The Music. The Show.,” kicks off in May, but Jackman was up in the wee hours on Tuesday morning to promote his act by performing numbers from “The Greatest Showman” and “Les Miserable.” It’s a variation on an act that Jackman has been honing since 2011 — one that gets more expansive as the actor’s list of Broadway and movie musical credits grows. This time he’s adding songs from “The Greatest Showman,” the 2017 smash hit that grossed $435 million globally.

Jackman sat down with Variety to talk about what audiences can expect from the latest iteration of his one-man show, his thoughts on Oscar hosting, and a potential stage version of “The Greatest Showman.”

Why did you decide to do this show?
The show has been developing since 2011. It started for two reasons. One because I had a failed attempt at doing an album, and I realized I’d failed because I didn’t really have anything to say. I was just doing songs people suggested for me. I came up with the idea of doing a show and thought that if I performed stuff I connected with, I’d come up with stuff I wanted to sing. I never got around to doing the album, but I’ve been doing the show ever since.

It’s evolving. When “Les Miz” came out, I added stuff from there. When “The Greatest Showman” happened my agent said, “You can do Europe and venues in America and go around the world.” The success of that, the amount of people that loved that music and the idea that I would sing songs from that in the show, it just felt right. The show has been one of the greatest joys of my career. It feels personal. I feel like I’m showing a side of myself and my career that people haven’t seen before.

Were you surprised by the success of “The Greatest Showman”?
Massively. I don’t think anyone could expect that level of success and the way that success unfolded. We probably couldn’t have had a worse start.

People thought it had bombed after the opening weekend, right?
Big time. I don’t always look at all the reviews or box office, but I will get emails from people if things don’t do well that are kind of “what do they know” or “you were great, but…” This time there was nothing. Crickets. I thought, “This is bad.”

But then it just built steam. I remember about two weeks after it opened the narrative shifted to we’re going to be okay. It’s not a disaster. A month after, we realized it was more than okay. I could feel there was a connection there, because people would stop me in the streets and talk about the music. I’ve never had a reaction to anything I’ve done like this.

What songs will you perform from “The Greatest Showman”?
It’s hard to pick and choose what to include. I’m definitely going to do “The Greatest Show,” because that’s one of the greatest openings possible. There’s a bunch of others. “From Now On” I’ve got to sing. And Keala Settle is going to come do a bunch of the shows, and she’ll sing “This Is Me.” That will be amazing for people in the audience, because to hear her sing that live is something else.

Will there be other guest stars?
My dream is to have a different guest every night. People I’ve always wanted to work with, people I have worked with. It will be eclectic — from dancers to singers to people I’ve admired. I’m reticent to say the names because most of them I haven’t even asked yet.

Will there be material from shows you haven’t appeared in?
I’m working on a homage to the great movie musicals. Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire are huge inspirations to me. I’ll do stuff from things I’ve done once or twice, like “Carousel.” I’d really love to pull the whole cast of “Oklahoma!” It’s been 21 years since we’ve performed together. When I’m in the U.K. I hope a whole bunch of them will come out.

Why do you love musicals?
I feel comfortable on stage. There’s something about it I find fulfilling. The songs seem to get deeper and deeper the more you perform them. It’s a huge challenge. Conveying thought through song is a difficult thing to do.

They still haven’t announced an Oscar host. Would you ever emcee the Oscars again?
I would love to do it again. Luckily the first time I did it, I was doing nothing else at the time. I’m amazed that people say yes to doing it when they’ve got day jobs. The show can’t begin until the nominations come out, so you’ve only got four to six weeks to create a three hour show. It’s nerve-wracking. I would do it again if I had the time off.

We spoke right before “The Greatest Showman” came out, and you said that you were able to hit certain notes for the first time because you were performing in a recording studio. Are you concerned about doing these songs live?
I did something this morning I’ve never done before, which is sing on the “Today” show. The songs I sang had notes that were right up there for me. I worried for a minute that maybe I shouldn’t have chosen them.

But when I’m on stage, I don’t worry about being perfect. For me, I worry about connecting with the song. That’s the goal for me.

Will there be a stage adaptation of “The Greatest Showman”?
I’ve heard a bunch of different ideas and hopefully when those happen I’ll be involved in some way, shape, or form. I know it works. There’s elements of the movie that would be even more powerful live. I’ve heard four or five different options of things, and I’m not sure anything is fully settled yet. Other people are worrying about that, so I’m just going to spend my time focused on this show.

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