Friday, May 6, 2011

Indulge me for a moment... of Hugh

I realize this is supposed to be a book blog, and most of the time I stay fairly on topic.  But I can't think about any dusty old books right now.  All I can think about is the lovely time I had at the Curran Theater where some friends and I saw Hugh Jackman perform his one-man show last night.  (Oh, and if you absolutely must insist on a literary tie-in, one of the friends accompanying me was NYT bestselling author James Rollins.)  It would be an understatement to say we had an awesome time.  I could barely sleep last night I was so jazzed!

So, why is action star Hugh Jackman singing and dancing in San Francisco for two weeks?  It really is rather random.  He was all set to fly to Japan to film the next Wolverine movie when the earthquake and tsunami hit, setting back production for a few months.  He had a bit of unexpected time on his hands, and the Curran Theater had a brief opening, and it all came together rather spontaneously.  Apparently the Aussie motto is "Let's have a go," and as Hugh explained, "This is us having a go."

This morning, I read about six different press reviews of his show.  There wasn't a negative one in the bunch, and the word of the day was "charisma."  The man is warm and winning, and he'll charm your socks right off.  (I speak from experience.  A mutual friend introduced us for one minute years ago after a performance of The Boy from Oz on Broadway.  Hugh addressed me as "darlin'."  I still get giddy thinking about it.)

So, what is Jackman doing for more than an hour and a half on stage each night?  He's showing off his considerable vocal talents backed by a 17-piece orchestra.  Not all fans realize that he has a long musical theater resume.  The evening opened with the song "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" from Oklahoma!, a nod to his star turn in the 1998 London revival.  Another show-stopper, and piece of his past, was the song "Soliloquy" from Carousel.  My friend Jon was in the audience when he originally did this number in a staged concert production at Carnegie Hall.  Even out of context and on an empty stage, his performance was extraordinary.

Not every song was so heavy, or had such pedigree.  Hugh got to shake his hips to Elvis ("A Little Less Conversation" and "Jailhouse Rock") and sang Peggy Lee's "Fever" from a seat in the front row, while an audience member shook it good naturedly with the back-up singers on stage.  Speaking of "shaking it." Hugh did a little shtick about needing to stay muscled up for Wolverine and how jazz hands made Hollywood producers nervous.  Not good for the image.  He then launched into roughly the same "I Won't Dance" medley as he performed here on the Tony Awards back in 2007.

There were several medleys in the course of the evening.  One was full of favorite songs from the movies and included: “As Time Goes By,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Stayin’ Alive,” “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Lady Marmalade.” 

At one point, Hugh briefly left the stage to let his two backup singers do a number of their own.  Moments later he appeared in the mezzanine in full Peter Allen regalia.  From there, he quickly ran back to center stage where he sang several of Allen's songs from the show The Boy from Oz, including: "Not the Boy Next Door," "Don't Cry Out Loud," "Best That You Can Do," and "I Go to Rio." 

As he'd done on Broadway, he had fun interacting with the audience in character.
Hugh was definitely having a good time with the audience, and I get the feeling that the show is different every night. Apparently there were several mishaps on opening night, but Hugh just rolled with whatever was happening, often turning the spontaneous occurrences into the show's highlights. On that first evening, he split his pants doing fan kicks that would make a Rockette proud. He had his dresser bring a fresh pair, and donned them center stage. Alas, there were no such mishaps last night, but more than a few audience members called, "Take it off!" Hugh could not have been more comfortable or having a better time with the rambunctious San Francisco audience. I think we were all there to have a good time, and no one left the theater disappointed.

All through the evening he shared stories from his life and career, such as being awoken in London in the middle of the night by Steven Spielberg asking him to host the Oscars.  One of the most interesting things I learned was that he spent several months with the Aboriginal people deep in Australia's outback in his late teens.  It was clearly a powerful experience.  Despite his best intentions, he was unable to return for 20-some years.  He sang an unusual Aboriginal song, accompanied by two didgeridoo players which then led to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."  The final song of the evening was a rousing "Luck Be a Lady" from Guys and Dolls.  I listed a lot of songs he sang, but truthfully, there were an equal number I didn't list.  It was a full night, and while ticket prices were steep, we got our money's worth.

Certainly none of us who saw this show last night would be surprised if he takes this show to Broadway some day.  It deserves to have a life beyond these 10 or 12 performances.  But how exciting to have had a chance to see this early incarnation in such a wonderful, intimate house!  We had such a great time, that my friend Jon and I are very much hoping to score some cheap student rush tickets to a performance next week.  Fingers crossed! 

Now, I promise to get back to the books, but be forewarned.  I'm off to New York for BEA and BBC in a couple of weeks.  There will be a lot of theater.  I'll try to control myself, but there are likely to be reports.  Thanks for indulging my enthusiasm!


  1. I hope you will post theater reports! You have a boatload of tickets lined up, and I plan on living vicariously-so please do write. This one time treader of the boards is sooo jealous. I've not been to a show in years. If I can swing it, I hope to hit either Seattle or San Fran for an opera next season.

  2. Yay, someone finally posted a comment here.

    Thanks, Care. I'll definitely write something about the shows I see in NY. And, if you come to SF again, I INSIST you get in touch! I'll go to the opera or theater with you anytime. :-)

    Incidentally, I spent the evening investigating the possibility of a single ticket to The Book of Mormon for the May NY trip. There are none available through telecharge. I could likely find a single ticket at the box office--and definitely for the July trip--but the cheapest ticket is about $150 a seat! That's just ridiculous. I have very mixed feelings about this on principle. I don't know what I'll do.