Review By Frances Winston
Hugh Jackman – The Man, The Music, The Show
The 3 Arena, East Wall, Dublin 1
30th and 31st May 2019
Hugh Jackman is amazing! His show is phenomenal! End of review!!!!
OK, apologies, that was very unprofessional. But if you can’t be bothered reading on, that is this review in a nutshell. I have sat down and thought about it. I have revisited all the rules of critical analysis that I studied in college. But I am truly finding it difficult to find anything to ‘critique’ in this show. I should also point out that I didn’t get a ‘reviewers’ ticket for this show, so I am under no obligation to the PR to say nice things about it.
However, Jackman is one of those rare performers that seems to appeal to literally everybody, thanks to the sheer breadth of his work. It was no surprise when he quickly sold out three shows in the 3 Arena, and as you’d expect, the audience was as eclectic as his body of work. From the 5-year-old children sporting top hats à la PT Barnum, to the elderly man dressed in full Greatest Showman garb, and everybody in-between, this crowd were united in one thing – their love of the talented Aussie.
Giving them exactly what they wanted, following montages of his big-screen performances (including the iconic Wolverine), he opened with the hugely successful, The Greatest Showman, which had the capacity crowd on their feet from the start.
Dressed in a silver tuxedo-jacket and bow-tie, he looked every inch the polished Hollywood star. After a couple of more numbers from the hit movie, the jacket was off though, the dress-shirt sleeves were rolled up, and we were treated to Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, as he explained how he got the role in a production of the show in 1995.
From here on in, he took us on a journey through his life, and the songs that have influenced it, or that he has been privileged to perform.
There is a beautiful tribute to his wife, a selection of songs from Les Mis, his legendary homage to Peter Allen, whom he played in The Boy From Oz (winning a Tony for his efforts) and a nod to the musicals he loved watching as a child.
A real surprise (and highlight for me) was when he tap danced to AC/DC’s thunderstruck. It was truly astonishing and extremely clever. All the numbers are peppered with anecdotes – indeed some feel very personal, and you can’t help but admire him for sharing them. Far from a selfish performer, Jackman brings out the wonderful Keala Settle to perform This is Me, as only she can (bringing several people to tears).
He also shares his stage with Blues singer, Olive Knight who, along her son, singer, Clifton Bieundurry, and Didgeridoo players, Paul Boon and Nathan Mundraby, performs in her traditional language of Walmatjarri, as part of the ‘nomad section’ of the show. This is a wonderful celebration of Jackman’s homeland, and again is very moving. There is also a special cheer reserved for Dublin choir, The Line-up, who joined him for a couple of numbers.
Throughout, Jackman proves completely engaging, chatting with the audience, popping off the stage to high-five children in the front row, signing autographs while in full flow with an anecdote (I kid you not) and even bringing one delighted Dubliner called – of all things – Tom Jones up on the stage, where he dad-danced to his heart’s content.
I appreciate that I went in to this as a fan anyway, but there is honestly very little I can find fault with in this show. He may have hit a bum note or missed a step somewhere, but I truly didn’t notice. My biggest complaint is actually the disgraceful queue for the ladies in the 3 Arena, which has been a problem at every show I have attended there recently!
I can honestly say that this was one of the best shows I have ever attended. It was slick, but had a sense of spontaneity. It was polished but personal. People laughed, people cried, people danced and sang, and it appealed to every single person there, whether they were familiar with the material or not.
It is rare that a performer has such broad appeal, but Jackman has it in spades. I’m actually jealous of the people who have yet to see him. It’s a real treat!