Jackman says shows like In Concert are what he wants to be doing for 30 to 40 years. Photo by Josie Di Luzio.
Hugh Jackman is no stranger to theatre, having hosted the Tony Awards three times and winning critical praise for his role as Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz. He’s also no stranger to Toronto, after filming X-Men here over a decade ago. But this summer, Jackman is diving into both at once, bringing his musical theatre talent to Toronto for a limited two-week stage show at the Princess of Wales Theatre from July 5 to 17. Backed by an 18-piece orchestra, Hugh Jackman In Concert features the Australian actor singing some of his favourite tunes, while also sharing some anecdotes from his career on the stage and the silver screen, with some dance incorporated for good measure.
In an interview last week, Jackman expressed his delight at playing Toronto, noting its reputation as an important theatre town. “In terms of hierarchy, probably Broadway’s it, but Toronto’s second. Maybe Toronto and Chicago,” Jackman said. “It’s a sophisticated theatre crowd—very knowledgeable—and at the same time, there’s a history here of seeing things out-of-town, and an innate understanding that you might be evolving something, which is what I’m doing.” In Concert launched in San Francisco and will remain mostly the same throughout its touring schedule, except with some tinkering and a few new tunes being added. For the San Francisco engagement, the star had only two months to put the show together, but he was encouraged enough by the results to move it to Toronto.
Toronto has a special place in Jackman’s heart as the filming location of X-Men, his first major motion picture. “It was the only movie experience I’ve had where I was completely anonymous. And, it was the first time in my life I was being paid, like, any money at all.” His first major-paying gig—and one that would skyrocket the Australian to fame—allowed him and his wife to dine out at restaurants and see theatre shows in Toronto, especially since X-Men was filmed in 1999 and 2000, before he and his wife had children. “I had the time of my life,” said Jackman, although having spent time in Toronto in the winter, he added it’ll be nice to see the city in the summer.
Speaking of his most famous role, Jackman said he’s not worried about how people who know him best as a tough-talking mutant will perceive his song-and-dance show. Nor is he actively trying to avoid being type-cast: “This feels like a massive indulgence. I’m not doing it because I’m trying to give a signal that I’m this or that; I’m doing it because I love it.” He understands the stigma that is put on men singing and dancing—especially strong in his native Australia, he said—but thinks it’s changing thanks to reality competitions like So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol. After all, he notes, for most of history, you couldn’t fit the traditional idea of masculinity without singing and dancing skills; he also gave an example of how important dance remains in Latin American culture.
When Jackman did an impromptu poll of his San Francisco audience to find out who had been to the opening weekend of Wolverine and who had seen him onstage, he was surprised by how much overlap there was. The audience “is a really wide cross-section and isn’t nearly as polarized as you’d think,” he said. Attendees, it turned out, weren’t coming out for Jackman as Wolverine or Jackman as Allen, but rather for Jackman himself. He acknowledged that movie studios were nervous about him doing a song-and-dance show, but he also said the heads of the studios saw him in San Francisco and “dug” the show.
In Concert, then, is a way for the actor to create for himself a vehicle that will let him be on stage, as he hopes to, for the next “30 to 40 years,” and he dismissed any naysayers: “If people go, ‘You know what? I’m not going to see your movie,’ so be it.”