When I say Hugh Jackman, what’s the first thought that pops into your head?
Wolverine? PT Barnum? A 50-year-old Australian actor-singer-producer-and-tap-dancer-currently-on-a-world-tour?
Yes, you read that right. Hugh Jackman is currently undertaking a massive world tour, ‘The Man. The Music. The Show.’
Now, I’ve been a fan of his for years; through the X-Men/Wolverine franchise and Les Misérables to Eddie The Eagle and The Greatest Showman. (And with regards to the latter movie, I actually can no longer tell how many times I’ve watched it or listened to the fabulous soundtrack). So much so, that it featured quite significantly in my Spotify ‘2018 Wrapped’. Even my mum, who isn’t the biggest fan of musicals, loves it – that’s how good it is.
Towards the end of last year, I subsequently discovered that Hugh Jackman was going on tour and Ireland had been announced as one of the locations along the way. The morning the tickets went on sale I cleared my schedule and at 9.02am, my squeals of delight quickly confirmed to anyone within a five-mile radius that I had secured my tickets. It was a long, five-month wait for the concert to actually arrive, but it was worth every second when it did.
As I waited for the show to begin, what struck me was the audience; there were women enjoying a girls’ night out, small children bouncing around excitedly (and fully dressed up in their ringmaster or circus costumes), to middle-aged couples. Out of all the concerts I’ve been to over the years, I’d never noticed such a mixed demographic making up a sell-out crowd.
I think it was in a pre-tour interview when Hugh himself said, “You know the man, you enjoyed the music and now you can see the show” – and when the time came for the show to begin, he definitely put on a great one!
As the lights went out and the curtains lifted, the show started with a video montage of the different characters Hugh has played over the years, culminating in the man himself appearing on the stage to belt out ‘The Greatest Showman’ and ‘Come Alive’. Jackman then took us back to 1995; to the very beginning of his career when he was cast as Gaston for a theatre run of Beauty And The Beast. The song choice was, naturally, ‘Gaston’ and also included a perfect performance of the famous mug routine. (It can be found four mins into this video. Disclaimer: This video does not feature Hugh Jackman).
A few of the big band-style Hollywood numbers followed before Jackman introduced his very special guest for the night – the incredible Keala Settle – to perform ‘This Is Me’. For those who don’t know about Keala, she portrayed Lettie Lutz, a bearded lady, in The Greatest Showman. This Is Me was principally sung by Settle and won the 2018 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, and it was probably the one song the audience knew to expect and were eagerly awaiting to hear. It was goose bump-inducing and an overwhelmed Keala received a very well-deserved standing ovation.
It was one of the best performances of the night, but it was followed by what I felt was also Hugh’s best performance of the night – a medley of ‘Valjean’s Soliloquy’, ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ and ‘One Day More’ from Les Misérables. There was so much passion and intensity for the closing number of the first act, I did shed a few tears.
After a short interval, the second act commenced with Hugh donning yet another character from his back catalogue of work – The Boy From Oz’s Peter Allen. It was a light-hearted and fun segment for the crowd to enjoy and Hugh seemed to be having the time of his life as well as he interacted with his fans. He could captivate the audience whether he poked fun at himself or he spent time shining a spotlight on important issues. A lovely, stripped back version of ‘A Million Dreams’, taken from The Greatest Showman, was translated into sign language and brought the arena to a standstill. This performance was then followed by the ‘nomad segment’ of Jackman’s show and featured the singer Olive Knight. Olive is 73 and from an isolated Indigenous community in Western Australia. Speaking and singing in her traditional language of Walmatjarri, she joined Hugh on stage for two pieces which also featured her son, the singer Clifton Bieundurry, and didgeridoo players Paul Boon and Nathan Mundraby.
There was just time for Jackman to flex his vocal range for a few final hits including ‘Over The Rainbow’ and ‘From Now On’ (for which Keala made another appearance), before the actor finished with the classic ‘Once More Before I Go’.
Overall, it was a polished, but personal show and inspiration for the tour has clearly been taken from the Golden Age of Hollywood and Broadway, (as well as Jackman’s Greatest Showman). With the selected set list, it navigated nicely through his career and gave the audience an insight into his musical tastes. For instance, there were a few times when Hugh spoke about his song choices and what they meant to him, or to his wife Debs, and it brought an intimate aspect to the evening. It let us get up-close-and-personal with “the man” that we so often just see “in character” on our screens. It also helped solidify my belief that Hugh Jackman is just a really, really nice guy.
I’m fortunate to have met various celebrities over the years and although I didn’t meet Hugh Jackman, I never thought I would have the opportunity to be in the same room as him and hear him talk about his career. Those memories will stay with me forever and I still find it hard to believe that I saw him live and in concert.
Hugh Jackman performed at Dublin’s 3Arena on Thursday 30 and Friday 31 May, 2019.