Friday, July 22, 2011
My date with Hugh Jackman
[This actually took place a few months ago, and I never got around to mentioning it before.]
For once, I spent Mother's Day at my mother's house. When I found out that Hugh Jackman was trying out a one-man show, I told my mother that I'd take her for her Mother's Day present.
Mother: "Hugh who?"
I explained that he was an actor, singer, and dancer. I mentioned that he was best known for a science-fiction movie where he turned into a sort-of Wolverine character... my voice trailed off as I saw her face set into that forced "that will be lovely, dear" expression. The poor woman was clearly anticipating an unpleasant afternoon.
When we got to our seats in the Curran theatre, she looked around in some surprise and whispered "There are people my age here!" I am sure she was anticipating being surrounded by teenagers and people wearing Star Trek outfits.
Hugh (yes, we’re on first-name basis... I mean, we spent the afternoon in the same room, what else?) was trying out a one-man show of his favorite songs, mostly show tunes. Oklahoma!, Carousel, stuff like that. The man can sing. The songs were mostly arranged traditionally, though he also threw in a surprisingly effective rendition of ‘Over the Rainbow’ with didgeridoo accompaniment.
In between, he talked about how he ended up where he is, and chatted with the audience. His dad was in the audience. (On opening night, Nicole Kidman showed up.) He told a story about the first time he played Carnegie Hall. His father was in New York at the time, so Hugh (first-name basis, remember?) picked him up on the way to the theater. His father showed up in black tie, and Hugh told him that it was a casually dressed event. His father refused to change. "MY son is appearing at Carnegie Hall. It is a black tie event."
Apparently, the national motto of Australia is "I'll have a go." That seems to have been the way he made the choices that led him to being on stage at the Curran on Mother's day. He didn't have any interest in performing when he was young; he was more interested in rugby. But a high school friend mentioned that the school was putting on a performance of Music Man, and it was a chance to meet girls, so "I decided to have a go." His first performance was as one of eight salesmen in The Music Man, the opening scene. He still remembered all the lines in the scene even today. To prove it, he sang all eight parts with a rapid-fire delivery, with only a snare drum for accompaniment.
Hugh seemed to thrive on the interaction with the audience. Once, during a rendition of Peggy Lee’s ‘Fever’ he commented on how hot it was and tugged at his collar. A woman in the audience yelled “Take it off” and he shot back “I will if you will.” He went down into the audience, along the front row, gyrating his pelvis to the rhythm. At one point he looked down at the man seated directly in front of him and grinned. "You're trying so hard not to look, aren't you." I'm not sure what the man said in response, but Hugh laughed.
I got the feeling he was still trying the show out, he would comment on how some jokes got a laugh one night and not the next. Very off the cuff except for the singing and dancing, which he’d clearly worked on. And he was clearly having great fun.
Back home, I heard my mother mentioning to my sister that "he was quite a good singer, actually." I think she was still feeling relieved that there were no references to Star Trek.
Photo courtesy of Surrealistic Scenes