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"Hugh Jackman Back On Broadway" At The Broadhurst Theater, Saturday, November 19th, 2011, Reviewed

In 1961 I was four years old and I didn't see Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall. But many years later I listened to it and I will not disagree if you were to claim, Garland performed one of the greatest one (wo)man shows of all time. Judy's gift heightened with maturity, her presentation built on the blocks of hard times and humility, she spanned her entire career and reminded, indeed improved upon our memories of Garland, the Superstar. Judy wouldn't make it to the end of the decade, but Live At Carnegie remains, not as a remembrance but as a lving, breathing work of genius.

For all his many abilities, after seeing Hugh Jackman at the Broadhurst Theater, Saturday night, I am here to tell you the Garland comparisons does nobody, least of  all Jaclman, any favors.

Let's be clear: Jackson as musical theater superstar has two performances to his name. In the West End, Curly in "Oklahoma" and  on Broadway, Peter Allen in "The Boy From Oz" -Curly is under represented in Hugh's career spanning, etc, though he gets Allen right in the second half of the show.

The performance is sexy, charming, self-effacing, hugely fun, fleet of foot, beautifully maintained, with a full orchestra and six back up dancers/singers for the guys in the audience. Jackman's rapport is easy and genuine and his singing fine and robust. This is a star making a star turn.

The first half opens with "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning" and a discofied "One Night Stand" and stops the show with a medley revolved around dancing-from "I Won't Dance" to "Gotta Dance" -he is good hooferr and it is a pleasure to watch him move.The first half ends with the musical highlight of the show, "Soliloquy" from "Carousel". Somewhere in theere is also  a tribute to New York City, and an improv piece with a (male!) member of the audience that was very, vey funny.

The second half is less successful. Around the midway point, he makes a mistake that doesn't come close to dogging Garland at Carnegie. An obscure Allen cover "Tenderfield Saddler" -Allen's bio in song form is distracting, maybe in another setting it'd work. Jackman follows it with a tribute to his native Australia, with Aboriginal musicians performing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" becaiuse, heaven knows, when I think of Oz I think of Oz.

The second half begins with a fine medley of Allen hits, and Jackman switching his charm from the women to the men.  A little later there is a tribute medley to Hollywood Musicals like "Singing In The Rain", and "Easter Parade" and he ends the evening with "Once Before I Go"

Being less than laudatory about Jackman's performance is a suckers game,. The entire run is sold out, the women fans are going bonkers and he deserves their adulation. Hugh is everything everyone claims he is… and a little less. Some writer noted how Jackman misses the depth that personal hardship brings to a life: Jackman feels charmed, a major movie star (Wolverine to you) and a HUGE Broadway star: he has it all. But his wife had two miscarriages and he adopted the two children he has. And that's just what I know. Also, he mentions his sister Zoe and tells a wonderful story about his father traveling 48 hours to see his debut at Carnegie Hall. And his Mom?

My point is not to pry, it is to suggest the shading of his artistry is as invisible as the effort he put into this brilliant production. Judy at Carnegie blows lines, sweats, reaches out to the audience (now: reaches out through decades) to present a flawed and fragile woman and a musical genius. Jackman works very hard to present a different image: an excellence and self-assurance in his "give it a go" mantra. Jackman is also a genius in his own way. But we won't be discussing "Back On Broadway" in 60 years.

Grade: A 

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