At Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway audiences are rapturously in love with the titled star. They are not alone. The revue doesn't open until November 10, 2011, and it's already breaking house records at the Broadhurst: the latest, in excess of $1.2-million -- no doubt due to the jacked up ticket pricing; regular seats go from $67-$350.

If the Shubert Organization and producer Robert Fox could somehow get the next “Wolverine” movie canceled and get producers to forget about making Les Miserables, they could keep HJ on Broadway now and forever. From the massive crowds, sold-out shows, ticket demand and enthusiastic response, Jackman could easily become a permanent tourist attraction right up there with the Empire State Building!

From observing arriving audiences and overhearing conversations once they enter, it appears they know in advance whatever they've paid is worth it. They know they'll be getting a knock-out show. No disappointment there. They do. Audiences don't wait to give him a standing ovation, they do it as soon as he enters singing "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning."

Jackman has talent, charm and a very playful sense of humor. Audiences feel they know him. All of this creates more of an air of excitement. There's a line before the show even starts to purchase Jackman memorabilia and show posters. Audience members want to take something of him home. So what if it's only a tee or a poster?

Many audience members are amazed they managed to get tickets. One woman, Annie A., visiting from GA, came to NYC for her birthday treat with only one thing in mind: seeing Hugh Jackman. And, boy, did she get her wish. Now, she's planning at least two more trips, but admits it may be harder to come by tickets.

Bursting with enthusiasm at performances are those lucky students who entered the daily morning lottery for discounted seats in the boxes. They almost feel they are part of the show; and, in a few instances, a lucky one or two are. The other night, the woman in the first box at Stage Left nearly had a heart attack when the lights went down for the beginning of Act Two. The curtains flew open, and Jackman in gold lame as The Boy from Oz was standing in front of her. When he tried speaking to her, she seemed literally to be in ultra shock and was speechless.

There's a love affair afoot with Jackman. As soon as intermission arrives, you hear comments such as "Stupendous!," "Sensational!," "Amazing!" His show certainly can easily join the show biz roster of memorable Broadway one-person shows, right with Judy Garland, Julie Harris, Hal Holbrook, Robert Morse, Lena Horne, Elaine Stritch.

Sitting mid-orchestra on the aisle were a couple from Long Island The wife only recently found she was cancer free. Her husband related that the show was her first outing in over a year. At intermission, her face filled with rapture, she couldn't contain herself and blurted, "Coming here was the best tonic I could wish for." The husband did something he said he'd never done: sprung $15 for a poster; and though he had noted they had a long drive - and he'd have to be up at the crack of dawn for work, he said he was determined to get Jackman to sign it. Let's hope he somehow succeeded.

Much of the concert is scripted with a planned set of songs; but, as directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, the show's so loose that Jackman is allowed time off the page. He takes great advantage, creating some memorable and hilarious moments.

Jamie S. of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Annie A. of Augusta, GA, experienced such moments, which the two won’t forget. Jamie, who prefers not to have his last name published, was seated way down front. "I'd seen him three times in The Boy from Oz years ago," says Jamie, "and it was easy to relate to him. My partner and I were sitting pretty far over, so we never for a moment thought we might be in the so-called danger zone. Having Hugh pick me to join him onstage to bump and grind to 'Fever' was the last thing I expected. He was so relaxed onstage that he built an extraordinary rapport with the audience through his enthusiasm and love of being there. It was as if he was saying to us all, 'Isn't it amazing what I get to do?' I can't think of another performer who's as consummate an entertainer or another evening of theater which was more thrilling.

"In my work," continues Jamie, "I've done enough extemporaneous public speaking so I didn't panic or get too uptight. He had made us feel as though we knew him, so being up there with him was an unexpectedly personal extension of that bond. That made a difference."

Jackman asked Jamie, "Who are you with?" And Jamie replied, "My partner." He asked his name and said, "Daniel, come on up." He wouldn't, so Jackman tried to bring him up, but Daniel wouldn't budge.

"Though I was a stranger," Jamie explains, "Hugh spoke to me as if he knew me. He got the banter going easily. Once he pulled my jacket off and got me to loosen my tie, it was really fun. Now I can say that Hugh Jackman helped undress me! It felt great to be arm-in-arm with him and get a big hug from him."

When Jackman sent Jamie back to his seat, he felt the moment was over. "However, I was touched that for the rest of the evening, whenever Hugh was over on the right side of the stage that he made eye contact and grinned. It still feels unreal. I'll certainly remember it for years and always think of that night with a glow.”

When Jamie got home, he e-mailed friends. "They were green with envy." He adds that he's been "teasing Daniel that he's one of the few guys to turn down a request from Hugh Jackman!"

Annie A. was in the City celebrating her birthday, "and my husband managed to get tickets on Row M. for the Wednesday matinee. Hugh Jackman's fabulous and loaded with charisma. There aren't that many in his class today." She loved the show so much, they went right out to the box office and lucked into a pair of seats on the left side aisle, second row. "Talk about luck! We couldn't believe it." Annie is a singer with a Dixieland jazz band and performs locally and on cruises. When Jackman began singing "I Got Rhythm" in his movie tribute medley, she began singing along. When HJ segued over to Stage Left, he saw and heard her. Then began "one of the most exciting experiences" of her life.

"His smile truly dazzled me when he took my hand," says Annie. "I'm told he had his arm around me and I had mine around him, but I was in such a daze I can't remember." She wasn't sure she sang along, but she did." One thing she remembers is Jackman kissing her on the cheek. "I told my husband Hank I was never going to wash my face again. He laughed." When Annie returned to the couple's hotel, she began e-mailing dozens of friends. She gushed, "I told them I'd just made my Broadway debut and with guess who?...Hugh Jackman! No one believed me. They said, 'Yeah, sure!' Well, I did; and it was an out-of-body experience. He's such a showman and has amazing charisma! Plain and simple, he's the ultimate WOW! factor. It's something I'll never forget!" And, from the sound of things, it's something her friends will be hearing about for a while.

"You know how Hugh says 'Let's give it a go?'" Annie ask. "Well, I'm ready. I'll give it a go anytime. We're already planning to come back and see the show again and maybe again!"


Key Subjects: 
Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway, The Boy from Oz
Ellis Nassour
November 2011