fri 18/10/2019

Hugh Jackman, SSE Hydro, Glasgow review - showman plays to his strengths as he kicks off world tour | reviews, news & interviews

Hugh Jackman, SSE Hydro, Glasgow review - showman plays to his strengths as he kicks off world tour

Hugh Jackman, SSE Hydro, Glasgow review - showman plays to his strengths as he kicks off world tour

Drama and laughs in Hollywood star's arena-sized one-man musical revue

There's no mistaking Hugh Jackman's movie-star smile

“I hope you’re not only Wolverine fans or this is going to be a long night,” a grinning Hugh Jackman tells a screaming Glasgow crowd. The line – delivered in front of a giant screen on which Jackman, adamantium claws extended, is climbing out of a river with his shirt off – sums up a particular curiosity about the actor known to many as the Greatest Showman: how did an award-winning musical theatre actor end up playing a comic book mutant?

There’s actually an answer of sorts in Jackman’s new one-man show, which kicked off an extensive world tour with three nights in Glasgow – as well as a confession that he was nearly fired from the role that made him famous internationally. Jackman hangs large segments of the show on his own life story, interspersed with musical set-pieces inspired by classic Hollywood, Les Miserables and some film about a circus.

"One man" is, of course, a bit of a misnomer: Jackman’s supporting cast includes 10 dancers, 20 musicians and the 50-strong SoundSational Community Choir. Yet there’s a casual intimacy to the way “Shuggie”, as he claims locals have dubbed him, addresses the audience, promising even the people in the cheap seats that “we’ll know each other a lot better by the end of the night”.

There was only ever one choice of opening number, but there’s not a top hat in sight when the star appears at the top of an illuminated staircase to the opening strains of “The Greatest Show”. While the silver-clad dance troupe is a little more Vegas than vaudeville, there’s no mistaking that movie-star smile as Jackman strikes a Barnum-esque pose for the end of “Come Alive”.

It’s probably the weakest point of a set that strikes every emotional beat, from a gently humorous tribute to Jackman’s first musical role as Gaston in Beauty and the Beast – complete with archival footage and plenty of tankards – to emotional tributes to his wife and father. SoundSational, a Glasgow-based choir, join Jackman for a moving rendition of “You Will Be Found”, from the musical Dear Evan Hansen – a song which Jackman dedicates to his eight-year-old self, and confesses always makes him emotional – while “Soliloquy”, from Carousel, lets Jackman show off his full range of musical theatre skills, and earns him a worthy standing ovation.

A two-act structure allows Jackman to play for both drama (“Valjean’s Soliloquy”, from Les Miserables), and laughs (a lengthy segment inspired by his Tony award-winning role as Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz, in which Jackman manages to stay in character for three costume changes and a dance with a member of the audience). But like any great showman, he also knows when to step back, giving Glaswegian singer Jenna Lee-James a chance to shine during “I Dreamed A Dream” and introducing Aboriginal musicians including tribal elder Olive Knight who join him for a stunning rendition of “Over The Rainbow”.

The biggest surprise of the night, however, is an unbilled appearance from The Greatest Showman’s Keala Settle. Performing a note-perfect “This Is Me” in a sparkly jumpsuit, the vocal powerhouse almost upstages her co-star – but you suspect, from his affectionate introduction, that he wouldn’t have minded.

There’s a casual intimacy to the way 'Shuggie' addresses the audience


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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