Still, there is more. Illustrating his curious adolescence in Australia as a rough and tumble athlete who loved show tunes, coming home bloody and battered from rugby practice to watch Guys and Dolls on the telly, he stages a stupendous salute to the glorious age of movie musicals. Throwing the dice to a soaring climax on “Luck Be a Lady,” he reminds us that a revival with Hugh Jackman as Sky Masterson would be dream casting. When he taps like Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain, then high steps through the elegant paces of Fred Astaire on “Stepping Out With My Baby” from Easter Parade, I wager you can hear the ovations over the traffic jams in Times Square. Turning serious about the mystery and spirituality of his country toward the end, he turns the stage over to a captivating group of aborigines who accompany the star on their own instruments while the screen behind them turns into a montage of Australian geography and wildlife and Mr. Jackman sings a haunting “Over the Rainbow.” The effect produces goose bumps, touches the soul and leads to another standing ovation. Whipped into a lather, the audience had to be coaxed to sit down one more time, as Mr. Jackman knocked them out of their socks again on a bouncy Bobby Darin-styled “Mack the Knife.” And there’s another role I’d like to see him tackle.
I’m not mad about one-man shows, but Hugh Jackman is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of happening. He doesn’t lease the stage. He owns it, like Judy Garland, and uses every square inch of the space. Soon he’ll return to the claws and beards of werewolves, vampires and boxing robots on a Hollywood soundstage. For the next 10 weeks, in Back on Broadway, he’s playing the greatest contemporary entertainer in show business—himself. I’ve never seen anyone like him, and you’ll be both foolish and a great deal poorer in life to miss him. Bring your own razzle to the Broadhurst. Hugh Jackman provides the dazzle. Between his electrifying talent, and the legions of fans who send their love back at the stage in appreciation, he creates an interplay, a rapturous splendor, of the disciplined energy that is art.