The actor's global arena tour is in full swing — and he spoke to EW about making big shows intimate, selecting songs, and potential special guests
Even before he starred in a certain movie musical with a certain title, Hugh Jackman was known for being a hell of a showman. You could even say he’s one of the greatest.
The actor has charmed audiences across stage and screen with roles in musicals like The Boy From Oz (which earned him a Tony Award) and Oklahoma!, and over his lengthy tenure as Wolverine in the X-Men films and with roles in Les Misérables and The Greatest Showman. And he’s planning a return to Broadway next year as the titular character in a revival of The Music Man.
But these days, Jackman is performing to crowds just slightly bigger than Broadway houses and movie theaters. The 50-year-old is in the middle of a global arena tour, dubbed The Man. The Music. The Show., which kicked off last month in Europe and is now continuing through the U.S. (The latest stop is New York, where he’s doing three shows at Madison Square Garden.)
It’s a musical extravaganza featuring a live orchestra, dancers, costumes designed by Tom Ford, and a set list boasting Jackman standards (The Greatest Showman numbers make the lineup, naturally) and other hits from Broadway and Hollywood. But the actor wants it all to feel intimate, despite the flashy scale.
“I’m in arenas, but it’s still really a theater,” he told EW last year, just after the tour was announced, mentioning artists like Keith Urban and Justin Timberlake and Janelle Monáe, who can “still make you feel like you’re in their living room” despite the venue. “It’s not, ‘I’m putting on a show. Sit back and watch the show, and it’s going to be full of spectacle and here it comes.’ It’s, ‘Let’s come together. It’s the same.’”
Jackman said he wants the show to be “an homage to the great movie musicals,” and was working on his tap skills in preparation. (“I’m going to dance a lot,” he promised.) “There’s going to be material from some of the great classics — some of the stuff I’ve been in, definitely some Boy From Oz, maybe even some Rogers and Hammerstein, and some stuff that I haven’t done. I love Dear Evan Hansen, I’d love to do stuff from that.” (Indeed, “You Will Be Found” made its way onto the official lineup.)
Between songs, he said he wanted to share stories with his audiences. “I think they’re going to hear things from me that I may not have shared with anybody else. Over the last few years, I’ve certainly realized that strength is in not being perfect; I’m not trying to be perfect, to allow people to see windows into the side of me that is not always charming and great or nice or whatever people might think of me,” Jackman revealed. “I want people to feel like they’ve had a night that only happened that night, and where they’ve perhaps got an insight into me that they haven’t had before. And have a party. It’s going to be fun.”
The tour has also featured a few special guests at select performances, including appearances from Jackman’s Greatest Showman costar Keala Settle. In London, Taron Egerton joined him and performed Elton John’s “Your Song.” Jackman’s got a long list for who else could potentially stop by. “I have a list of special guests that I’m inviting, which is literally a wish list, fully expecting of getting turned down by a bunch of them,” he said. “I would love Pink to come and do ‘A Million Dreams’ with me. I would love Sting to come on, I would love Colin Hay… James Corden and I email. I said, ‘Dude, will you come to the Hollywood Bowl and just come on? Let’s have some fun and sing a couple of songs.’ He’s like, ‘Dude, I’m in.’ Janelle Monáe, I would love. I would love Lady Gaga. I might even ask Bradley Cooper, say, ‘Dude, I just love what you did [in A Star Is Born]. Come on. Let’s go and do something.’”
And despite their supposed feud, he was also planning to put a request in with the Merc with the Mouth: “Deadpool! Come on, Ryan [Reynolds] — I’m going to ask him. Maybe we could do a little tap number.” (For the record, this writer suggested the two of them sing “Friendship,” from the classic musical Anything Goes. If it ever happens, you’re welcome.) Your move, Reynolds.
Jackman’s The Man. The Music. The Show. is playing in New York on Friday and Saturday. Head to the tour’s website for the rest of the dates.