Hugh Jackman: Back On Broadway


Looking back, what impact did The Boy From Oz have on your career?
It was the turning point in my career, as far as I’m concerned. It’s funny, because I was actually offered the role of Peter Allen back in 1996 when they did a workshop in Australia, but I turned it down — even though I knew it was going to be great — because I decided I was going to try to do more films. At that point I couldn’t even get auditions for films because I was becoming so known for musicals, so I was trying to strategize. Then, after saying no to The Boy from Oz, I didn’t work in film for the next two years. When I went to see the show I felt sick in the stomach, because it was exactly how I knew it would be: It was a brilliant show and one of the greatest parts I had ever seen, and I had turned it down because I was trying to plan things out. I got a call years later from Robert Fox, the producer, and he said, “Hey, Hugh, we were thinking —” I literally cut him off and said, “I’m in.” I vowed never to disobey my heart again.

After the success of The Boy From Oz, it’s hard to believe that you haven’t done another musical.
I’m also surprised it’s been this long since I’ve done another musical. The Boy From Oz opened me up to a lot of film directors who saw me do that and nothing else, but I was also adamant about only doing a new musical after that. I’d only done revivals or taken over from someone who’d originated the part, so I wanted to be a part of something new. But as you and I know, that’s difficult to find. Now, of course, I’m excited to be developing the musical Houdini, but this one-man show really came out of the frustration of not being able to find a new musical. I wanted to be back onstage and I couldn’t wait any longer.

What appeals to you about the one-man show format?
When I go to the theatre, I love feeling like anything can happen, like it’s a special night where things that happen won’t happen any other night. So I like to mix it up, change songs around, go out in the audience, drag people up on stage, ad-lib, and just be loose. It’s like we’re in my living room, but there just happen to be 1,200 seats.

Your last Broadway show was A Steady Rain, a two-character drama with Daniel Craig. Did you go solo because he hogged the spotlight?
Hey, I invited him to come and be my understudy. I told him he could do all the matinees, but he wouldn’t go for it.

You famously chastised an audience member for a ringing phone during A Steady Rain. When you saw the viral video clip of your outburst, did you regret losing your cool?
It was the right thing to do in that situation. What happened on that particular night is that the phone rang once right through. That had happened a few times before, but at this point it rang at the most crucial, climactic point of the entire play. I was so worked up that I decided to just let it go, but whoever it was did the old thing where they kick it under the chair and pretend it’s not them. When it rang again 30 seconds later, I could hear people going, “Turn it off!” Look, that show was 70 percent Daniel and me talking directly to the audience, and John Crowley, our director, told us to really connect with them. So at that point, I thought, well, if you’re having a conversation with someone at a dinner party and their phone rang, you’d probably say, “Are you going to answer that or what?” So I’d absolutely do it again.

The stage door scene after Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway will likely be even more insane than it was after A Steady Rain. Do you look forward to that particular fan interaction?
I really try not to take anything for granted. Sometimes I’m a little embarrassed at how much tickets cost, and if someone buys a ticket or two to a Broadway show, I’m aware that it’s maybe a once- or twice-a-year situation for a lot of people. So if they’re choosing to see you, the least you can do is greet those people at the stage door and sign an autograph. When I was in New York 15 years ago, I got a poster signed by Al Pacino when he did Hughie at Circle in the Square. I still have it in my home with a scribble that could be the letter Z, but I think it’s meant to be an A. It meant a lot to me to get that from a hero of mine. But really, most people just want to say “thank you,” and it’s always nice to meet them. By the way, I always make sure that there are student rush tickets for every show I do, because if it wasn’t for that when I was a student, I wouldn’t have seen any theatre.

What etiquette should fans remember at the stage door?
No spitting if you didn’t like the show. But seriously, the hard thing now is that everyone has a camera. I’ll sign something for everybody, but — and I feel bad about this — I just can’t take photos with everybody.

Finally — and I only ask on behalf of your straight female and gay male fans — do you remove your shirt during the show?
[Laughs.] You never know. But whatever happens, it will be tastefully done.