Hugh Jackman: The Return of “The Music Man”
Seventy-six trombones have announced the COVID-delayed revival of “The Music Man” and the return of one of Broadway’s biggest names: Hugh Jackman, finally starting a run that was due to end a year ago.
Crowded rooms, fully vaccinated and masked, greeted him with resounding ovations. “What better job in the world than allowing people to come and put your problems aside for a second and go on a little adventure?” Jackman said.
Set in a small town in Iowa with no taste for adventure, “The Music Man” is one of Broadway’s most enduring hits.
“Sunday Morning” host Jane Pauley asked Jackman, “Was your first stage experience …?”
“‘The man of music’!” he has answered. “I auditioned and did all that salesman stuff.”
This is the “Seller’s Thing”, from the 1962 film:
Jackman said: “Can you imagine their faces as I show up for my audition? I did it all. It was, ‘Have you ever met a guy named Hill? Hill? Hill? Hill? Hill? Hill? Hill? Hill???’ Just ridiculous! “
“How many other guys auditioned the eight parts? “ Pauley asked.
A go-getter for 14 years, and not a newcomer to Broadway. Eighteen years ago he won a Tony for his portrayal of flamboyant Australian compatriot Peter Allen: “There’s a scene with my boyfriend, and we’re kissing in the scene. was an ‘X-Men’ fan. And as we kiss, I hear this, “Don’t do that, Wolverine! No! “And I just had to turn around and I said,” I’m sorry, man. I’m sorry, man. I’m sorry, “” he said with a laugh.
Most people know Jackman as Wolverine from the “X-Men” movie franchise. But just when he was tempting to think maybe he really was do have superpowers, shortly after Grand Dame Sutton Foster tested positive for COVID on Tuesday, the Music Man also tested positive:
Ironically, the word “positive” practically defines Hugh Jackman.
Pauley said, “Got a little bit of Professor Hill in you, a little bit?”
“Yeah, probably,” he laughed. “Little flirtatious optimist. Yeah, I am. I am an optimist. ”
In the series, self-styled “Professor” Harold Hill is a huckster: “Harold Hill loves danger,” Jackman said. “He’s getting off that train because they’re talking about ‘There’s no way he can do what he’s doing in this town. No, no, not in Iowa. They’ll see through him. They’re too hard for him. ‘And that’s when he says,’ Oh, gentlemen, you’re puzzling me! ‘He’s like, Alright, and now I have a challenge.”
And him too. At 53, he took on a role so physically demanding that he lost ten kilos since the start of rehearsals. It’s easy to see why …
Jackman did not come from a show business family. Her parents, Christopher and Grace, emigrated from England to Australia in the 1960s. But nine years later her mother returned – alone – leaving five children, Hugh the youngest.
“From the age of eight, my father raised me and my siblings. If I think about what those ten years must have been…”
“Yeah. And my older sister was 15, 16. So five kids in there, and working full time and cooking and cleaning and stuff. It was amazing.”
Today, Jackman has a close relationship with his mother, but he had an even closer one with his father, whom he lost to Alzheimer’s disease in September.
“It’s just the first time I’ve talked about it, so it’s a bit difficult,” Jackman said. “But when I went to see him in June, he was smiling and he was there. And he was connecting. But in many ways he was also gone.”
Look for the scars of his childhood trauma – and you’ll find a chronically “nice” guy. “I think, for me, my default was ‘Yeah’. A little bit. ‘Yeah, sure, uh-huh.'”
“And why do you think it was?”
“I think – I know, actually – that was my way of finding safety. What should I do in this situation to make sure everything is okay, make sure everything is okay and no one is arguing? Where is that from ? It must come years before. Family stuff. And so, I found a way not to really bother. Do not worry about me. I will fit in. I can fit in. And that has become a habit. “
And it almost derailed a brilliant career: “I really loved dancing. It was very fun. So, I told my father. I said, “Daddy, can I have dance lessons?” My brother heard, and he said, “Yeah. You sissy. You sissy. Sissy. Sissy.” Like, for days. “
He didn’t take those dance lessons until eight years later: “I’ll never forget that. My brother said:
– I told you something really stupid years ago. And I’m so sorry I said that because I think you belong in that scene. ‘ I said what?’ And he said, ‘I said something really stupid about dancing.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, yeah. I miss dancing.
“And I signed up for a tap dance class the next day.”
After Broadway closed in March 2020, Jackman continued to work with choreographer Warren Carlyle to stay on his toes.
Asked to join Jackman on the dance floor, Pauley said, “I don’t have dancer feet.” But as they say in Australia, give it a try.
Pauley asked, “Are you not aware of your knees?
“I clearly am when I learn. My head gets stuck here, so when you go, it just means you get stuck in your head.”
“OK, now when I’m around you and looking at Hugh Jackman, I don’t think about my wobbly knees.”
” Here it is ! Do you know what the key was then? “
“Hugh Jackman?” she offered.
“You don’t measure – no. It’s just that your attention is outside of yourself. So that’s the key … and the more you can get out of your head and have something to do – on stage , for me, it’s about connecting with this audience, connecting with my other actors. “
“You are a very good teacher. Now here I am, dancing rings around Hugh Jackman! “
Now, this is dancing …
And later this week, along with Sutton Foster and company, Hugh Jackman, the Music Man, will once again bow out.
Pauley asked, “What does a standing ovation mean to you? ”
“To me, it’s kind of a confirmation of the best reason we do what we do,” he replied. “It’s like something has happened and after that you’re going to kiss, because you don’t know what else to say. That’s how I feel.”
WEB EXCLUSIVE: Hugh Jackman on his embarrassment in front of Al Pacino (Youtube video)
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Story produced by Kay Lim and Julie Kracov. Publisher: Lauren Barnello.