Hugh Jackman: “To actually be onstage as myself is really freeing, and hopefully in some ways it’s more powerful”


We’ve done so many posts lately about Hugh Jackman here at Daily Actor that we could probably change the name of our site to “Daily Hugh”, but can you blame us? Jackman, one of the most talented and versatile actors working today, has been making major headlines with his Broadway return, aptly titled Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway.  Jackman is one of the few actors who seem to do everything right: action (the X-Men films, Real Steel), drama (The Prestige), and of course, Broadway.

So why does Jackman take on so many varied roles?

As he tells Playbill, it’s more about survival than anything else.  “Honestly, it’s basically been about avoiding unemployment. When I first graduated from drama school, my goal was to keep pushing open as many doors as possible, so that included all different types of film, musical theatre, and straight plays. I figured, well, I’m pretty good at quite a few things, so I’ll keep on working at all of them. I also feel that it’s good for actors to say ‘yes’ and risk making fools out of themselves. Ultimately, that approach has been something that’s defined me in this business.”

Despite being “pretty good at quite a few things,” Jackman still identifies his Tony and Drama Desk Award winning role in the Broadway hit The Boy From Oz as his career highlight… even though he almost missed the chance to do it!  He explains, “It was the turning point in my career, as far as I’m concerned. It’s funny, because I was actually offered the role of Peter Allen back in 1996 when they did a workshop in Australia, but I turned it down — even though I knew it was going to be great — because I decided I was going to try to do more films. At that point I couldn’t even get auditions for films because I was becoming so known for musicals, so I was trying to strategize. Then, after saying no to The Boy from Oz, I didn’t work in film for the next two years. When I went to see the show I felt sick in the stomach, because it was exactly how I knew it would be: It was a brilliant show and one of the greatest parts I had ever seen, and I had turned it down because I was trying to plan things out. I got a call years later from Robert Fox, the producer, and he said, ‘Hey, Hugh, we were thinking —’ I literally cut him off and said, ‘I’m in.’ I vowed never to disobey my heart again.”

Back on Broadway consists of Hugh Jackman performing some of his favorite songs.  So how did he pick them?  Jackman points out that if he wasn’t enthusiastic about the song, the audience wouldn’t be either.  He says, “I have a rule: As each song starts, I need to feel like, Oh, my God, I can’t wait to sing this and share this. If I didn’t feel that, the song wouldn’t make the show.”  Nonetheless, despite the excitement Jackman admits that two of the songs are quite challenging, “One is the movie musical medley, which at seven and a half minutes is vocally and physically challenging. I think that’s why I lose about three or four pounds a night, even though I’ve been eating like a madman. My suit got taken in three or four times in Toronto. I also sing ‘Soliloquy’ from Carousel, which is one of the greatest musical theatre songs ever written, and it always requires you to be at your best as a singer and an actor.”

Yet it’s important to note that Jackman isn’t playing a character in this show, but appears as himself.  Although that’s a definite change, Jackman doesn’t feel uncomfortable exposing his true self to the audience like that.  He describes it as liberating, saying, “I just feel at home onstage. So to actually be onstage as myself is really freeing, and hopefully in some ways it’s more powerful. By the end of every night, I feel really intimate with the audience. I feel like I’ve shared things with them, and somehow they’ve shared things with me too.”

Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway opens today and runs through January 1.

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