Peter Allen. Curly McLain. Jean Valjean. Gaston. PT Barnum. Soon to be The Music Man. Hugh Jackman has immortalized icons of musical theatre on stage and screen for decades. Oozing charm, Jackman can sing, dance, act, host the Tony Awards, and lift cars (remember, he is also Wolverine). The consummate showman of our generation, there’s seemingly nothing he can’t do.
And so if any theatre performer were to tour the globe with any confidence that they could sell out the world’s biggest arenas, it would be Jackman.
This May, Jackman brings Hugh Jackman The Show to 31 cities around the world. Directed by Tony-winning choreographer Warren Carlyle (After Midnight), Jackman will sing from his long list of musical roles as well as from the catalogs of the artists and music that inspire him, weaving in personal stories.
The 22-city North American leg of the tour begins June 18 with stops in Houston, Chicago, Toronto, Boston, Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles. Playbill caught up with Jackman this winter, and we’ll see how many of these ideas come to fruition when Hugh Jackman The Show officially launches May 7 in Glasgow, Scotland.
For a full schedule of cities and dates, click here.
On what first inspired him to perform:
I remember going to see my first thing live, Man of La Mancha [and Don Quixote] was played by Hugo Weaving, who went to my high school. (I was not at the high school yet.) I can replay it like a film in my head; I was mesmerized by him. That’s probably where the spark came from that made me want to do it for the rest of my life. So I never take [performing live] lightly. There’s something so sacred to me about live, and I want people to come and see that something happened that night that only happened that night. A little secret. Something between the 30,000 of us.
On where the idea for an arena tour came from:
It started in 2011. We did arenas in Australia—that’s when I first really understood, ‘This can feel like a theatre, this can still feel intimate.’ But it works for me to bounce around [action, drama, musicals, touring]. That’s when I feel the happiest. Like basketballers. Some might say if I’m going to do freethrows just let me do freethrows. I’d prefer to go freethrow to a three-point to a dunk. For me, I’m a better shooter in all of those places when I’m bouncing around.
On what to expect from the show, his set list, and the stories he’ll tell:
I just keep writing new stuff. Different stories— which I want to tell in the show, which I probably didn’t have the guts to tell a few years ago. Maybe this is my midlife crisis.
They’re going to hear songs from Greatest Showman, they’re also going to hear things from Les Miz, standards from Irving Berlin or Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. I want to sing stuff from Dear Evan Hansen—I will never get cast as Evan Hansen no matter how good I think I am [laughs]. That’s going to be a really sad 50-year-old student still in high school. But it’s just stuff that means something to me that illustrates part of my life. A little throwback to Gaston, maybe the tankard dance. I love the tankard dance from ‘Gaston.’ Whenever we did it, we did it 400 times, and it always brought the house down. When Susan Stroman choreographed Oklahoma! I did the ‘Dream Ballet’ with Josefina [Gabrielle] who played Laurey. My director [of this tour] was the [assistant choreographer] of Oklahoma!, Warren Carlyle, and I said, ‘Warren, what if one night Josefina and I just do the ‘Dream Ballet’?’ And he said, ‘That’d be great if you can still do it.’ But my show at the moment is about four-and-a-half hours long so it’s all about cutting down.
But I go up as Hugh, and then I will switch characters during the whole act. So when I perform Les Miz, I’ll be Jean Valjean. These are all characters that I’ve probably done 400 times. So if you asked me to be Peter Allen [from The Boy From Oz], I could probably just switch into Peter Allen, which I’ll do in the show. It’s a state of mind and a commitment and I think the audiences really enjoy the transformation.
On possible surprise guests:
Keala [Settle] is going to come and do a bunch of them. I want to ask Sting. I just texted James Corden the other day I was like, ‘Dude, when are you coming to the Hollywood Bowl with me?’ I hope [to have guests like] Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster or Laura Benanti or Audra McDonald. I did Carousel the first time I sang in America. By the way I haven’t asked any of them yet! I would love if Pink and her daughter came on and sang ‘A Million Dreams’ one night.
On The Greatest Showman:
My very unscientific way of measuring success of a film is the being-stopped-on-the-street method, and I can tell you I have been stopped on the street so many more times by Greatest Showman fans and young kids and their parents than anything else I’ve ever done. My daughter’s done dance for the last five years and I go and watch her like any other parent and I just stand there and class finishes and I leave. After The Greatest Showman I walked into class and I heard whispers and about 60 young girls in tutus came up and were all “PT Barnum! PT Barnum!” My daughter’s like, ‘You are not coming to dance again.’
My agent told me something I’d never heard before: that musicals work because of the book and people love them because of the music. Certainly the music was the really big key for everybody; Justin [Paul] and Benj [Pasek] wrote and Michael [Gracey] shot those musical numbers in a beautiful way and then I think the story had a lot of heart. I want to hear the message ‘I can be me,’ that’s what I want to hear.
On the goal he set for himself:
“I’m a big believer that as a performer, the way you feel is how the audience is going to feel. So if you’re loving what you’re doing and you’re committed and you feel like the luckiest guy on the planet to be singing that song, then it’s going to feel like something special for the audience as well.”