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Concert Reviews:
Hugh Jackman brings his Greatest Showman chops to Little Caesars Arena

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Tuesday, June 25, 2019

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DETROIT -- A keenly aware Hugh Jackman thanked fans at Little Caesars Arena on Monday night, June 24, for coming to see him rather than going to the annual fireworks display nearby.

Then he provided a couple hours of his own kind of fireworks for them.

Jackman's "The Man. The Music. The Show." is an arena-sized song, dance and video spectacular, extravagantly staged and delivered with an engaging, sincere exuberance that transcends its script. It's the largest live stage show Jackman has attempted so far, but his ability to pull it off came as no surprise; The Australian-born actor and singer has won a Tony Award, after all, for portraying the late Peter Allen in "The Boy From Oz." It's not like he doesn't know how to tread the boards and can make a case as one of the great, if not the greatest, showman.

Monday's show was a personal one for the engaging, 50-year-old Jackman, too. Recalling the four months he spent in the metro area filming 2011's "Real Steel," he name-checked his temporary neighbors in Franklin, recalling kindnesses such as cookies on the doorstep when he and his family arrived. "I never had a shooting experience like this," he told the crowd, saluting Detroit as "a town of loyalty." He also recognized people sitting near the stage by name, high-fiving and fist-bumping as he navigated a ramp that took him to a small second stage at the center of the arena floor.

Jackman made the rest of the two-and-a-half-hour show (including 20-minute intermission) feel just as intimate, however. It was, in effect Hugh 101 as the engaging Jackman and company rolled through 20 numbers -- from show tunes and Great American Songbook standards to Allen favorites and, of course, hits from his hit movie musical "The Greatest Showman" -- offering warm, insightful stories delivered with convicing warmth. Jackman spoke about courting his wife, Deborra, and how she helped him overcome some initial issues playing Wolverine in the X-Men franchise. (Yes, he also struck a Wolverine pose at one point, quipping, 'Let's see Ryan Reynolds do that!"). He also recounted auditioning for the role of Gaston in the stage adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast" and building homes in Australia's Outback, bringing on a quartet of Aboriginal musicians (two on Didgeridoo) for the two-part "Nomad Two Worlds" medley that segued into "Over the Rainbow" and made a case for "reconciliation through culture."

He began "Dear Evan Hansen's" "You Will Be Found" with a story of youthful insecurities, but the real gem came in front of "Soliloquy" from the musical "Carousel," when he spoke about his father's journey to see him perform at Carnegie Hall in New York, insisting that he walk Jackman to the theater and wearing unrequired black-tie because "my son is singing at Carnegie Hall."

Blending solo performances with high-concept production numbers featuring a crew of 10 dancers, Jackman kept the dazzle high throughout the night -- including up close and personal moments with fans, particularly youths attending dressed in "The Greatest Showman" ringmaster outfits. "The Greatest Show," "Come Alive" and "This is Me" (the latter delivered by one of his backing vocalists) were roof-raisers, of course. A trilogy from the "Les Miserables" movie, accompanied by footage and also featuring the backup singers as well as the Detroit Women's Choir, built to a dramatic "One Day More." An extended Peter Allen medley was kitschy fun -- with Jackman, in character, bringing a front-row fan named Dave onstage for a bit of bro love -- and a medley of movie songs such as "Luck Be a Lady," "Singin' in the Rain," "I Got Rhythm" and more provided a bit of additional context to the show.

His voice capable and confident more than colorful, Jackman also displayed Broadway-caliber dance skills throughout, especially during a tap dance and drum line segment -- proceeded by a redemptive story about an older brother who shamed Jackman away from dancing as a child -- that found him hoofing from "42nd Street" into AC/DC's "Thunderstruck," Earth Wind & Fire's "September," Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business" and Van Halen's "Jump."

Jackman finished quietly, with the Celtic-flavored "From Now On" from "The Greatest Showman" and Peter Allen's "Once Before I Go." He covered plenty of ground -- and even got the crowd out in time to see those fireworks. But it would have been a tall order to surpass anything they'd seen Jackman do on stage.

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