Concert Review: Hugh Jackman Sparkles and Shines at the Hollywood Bowl
Hugh Jackman is out to prove he truly is the greatest showman. On Friday and Saturday night, Jackman’s “The Man. The Music. The Show.” world tour stopped in Los Angeles for a sold-out two nights at the Hollywood Bowl. Ten years ago, Jackman hosted the 2009 Oscars just a few blocks south of the venue at the Dolby Theatre, showing off a taste of his command as a singer, dancer, comedian and all-around entertainer performing with stars like Anne Hathaway, Beyoncé and Zac Efron. But with this one-man show, the star gets to show off his full range of skills without any pesky awards interrupting the momentum.
Jackman shines in the two-hour set, performing numbers from his starring roles as P.T. Barnum in “The Greatest Showman” and Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables,” as well as his Tony Award-winning turn in “The Boy From Oz,” before breaking into a tap dancing section set to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” and Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September.” Jackman ends the show-stopping section landing in his famous Wolverine pose, joking “Let’s see Ryan Reynolds do that” — issuing the challenge but asking the audience to please not tweet that comment to the “Deadpool” actor.
“We’re taking it all off tonight,” Jackman quipped early in the show, promising the crowd to reveal the man behind the characters. And the performer does just that, spilling his entire bag of tricks. Throughout the show, Jackman displayed his proficiency as a storyteller and host, commanding the stage and the audience’s attention by telling jokes and sharing personal anecdotes from his years growing up in Australia or about meeting his wife Deborra-Lee Furness, serenading his love with their first dance song “All the Way” before she got her own ovation from the crowd when cameras showed her in the audience. The actor also opened up about his early days in the entertainment business, including the fact that he was nearly fired from the role of Wolverine five weeks into filming for acting like a light behind a lampshade.
The lampshade is definitely off here. From the moment Jackman (clad in a slick silver Tom Ford jacket) ascends the stage with the thundering first notes of “The Greatest Show,” he evidently relishes the opportunity to make his wildest musical theater dreams come true. The show is impressively theatrical in its presentation, weaving in clips from Jackman’s famous on-screen performances on the large monitors that frame the stage, as well as tipping his hat to Old Hollywood with snappy dance routines, like an umbrella-flipping rendition of “Singing in the Rain.” In each new number, the production becomes more elaborate and the costumes get more sparkly.
And just when you thought the show couldn’t get glitzier, Jackman appears in the second act as singer-songwriter and “Boy From Oz” inspiration Peter Allen, donning a mirrored jacket with silver sparkling pants and shaking his hips (and pineapple maracas) in the show’s cheekiest section. “I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘Is he? Or isn’t he?’” Jackman as Allan teases. “Well it’s true … I’m Australian.” During this section, the actor also brought an unsuspecting audience member for a dance break, grinding with the fan to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” But this portion isn’t Jackman’s only nod to his Australian roots; the entertainer also features Aboriginal music performed by Olive Knight, Clifton Bieundurry and didgeridoo players Paul Boon and Nathan Mundraby.
The show is a wide-ranging experience overall, but the set list feels cohesive because it’s personal, navigating Jackman’s history as performer and showing off his eclectic musical tastes. Plus, he’s truly having fun. For instance, the star ordered a beer from an audience member in the front row on Saturday night, joking that “there are no drinks allowed on the piano unless it’s a Heineken,” before launching into the next number.
The star clearly has the gravitas to command the stage on his own, but he smartly recognizes that featuring other great talents makes him look good. Jackman utilizes those on stage alongside him —including a group of eight dancers, two featured singers, his band and the famed Hollywood Bowl Orchestra — to add to the spectacle. The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles also joined the star onstage for “You Will Be Found” from “Dear Evan Hansen” and appeared in the aisles of the Bowl for “A Million Dreams.” The production of this “Greatest Showman” tune also incorporated a beautiful contemporary performance by Jackman’s dancers and the touching use of sign language to translate the song’s message.
The Los Angeles shows featured special guest Keala Settle, Jackman’s “Greatest Showman” co-star, who performed the Golden Globe-winning anthem “This Is Me”. Settle sparkled in a gold sequined jumpsuit with bare feet as she made her Hollywood Bowl debut with a powerhouse performance that resulted in a standing ovation. To cap off the night, the audience lit up the venue with their cell phones as the performer closed the show with Allen’s “Once Before I Go.” Jackman seemed respectfully pleased to perform in the iconic arena, telling the crowd that it was a privilege and a “bucket list” moment to play the venue, summing up the whole experience of creating this show: “I had a dream and my dream has come true.”