'Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway'

Jason Marcus

The movie star sells his Great White Way return with tremendous power and pure magnetism.

Unless someone is sitting on lost footage of Bruce Willis in a kickline, it's hard to think of an actor in the past 50 years with the combined skills of a bona fide action-movie star and a dedicated song-and-dance man. That puts Hugh Jackman in a class of his own, where he seems tickled to be in his solo showcase Back on Broadway. Jackman stops (just) short of giving lap dances, but in every other way he's a full-service entertainer.

Rat Pack comparisons will be made, and Jackman summons shades of Frank, Dean and Sammy in his effortless blend of suave self-assurance and disarming self-deprecation. The guy is charm personified. And he embraces the old Vegas rule of never doing a number when you can do a medley. But there's also something of the Judy/Liza tradition in his ability to get on cozy terms with a crowd.

At the first media performance for the limited New York engagement, Jackman held the audience in the palm of his hand -- flirting, sharing memories and forging a connection that extended to the ushers and security staff.

He jokingly acknowledges the chasm separating the steel claws of Wolverine from the steel-heeled tap shoes of a 21st century Gene Kelly. It's the ease and enthusiasm with which he straddles the divide that make him such a winning personality.

Jackman reportedly had been seeking a musical stage vehicle since his 2004 Tony-winning turn in The Boy From Oz, and this act came together quickly when production on 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine was pushed back.

He points out the dilemma of being under contract to Fox and required to bulk up for his next Wolverine stint while shedding pounds by doing eight stage performances a week. He also dips into his career highlights, including Carousel, Oklahoma! and Oz.

The extended set allows him to camp it up wildly as he slips into flamboyant Peter Allen mode in body-hugging gold leather and lamé. He playfully blurs the line between character and performer, notably in a saucy bit of coquetry in which he challenges the drummer to keep track of every butt-popping gyration with suitable accompaniment. Jackman appears to be winking at the audience, as if to say, "I know what you're thinking, and I don't care."

Venue: Broadhurst Theatre, New York (through Jan. 1)
Cast: Hugh Jackman
Director-choreographer: Warren Carlyle

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