Hugh Jackman in Performance Live at the Curran Theatre
Mr. Wolverine has taken up residence in San Francisco for the next two weeks, and he seems very happy to be here. I notice thanks to my “site stats” options that his fans have also picked up my blog post from yesterday (and presumably will do the same for this one) so welcome!
Again I notice how it is a different feeling, and effort, to write about a performance a few days after seeing it rather than immediately following it. I see why professional critics must have strict deadlines and work ethics. For my comments, I’ll use the Broadway World review round up as a cheat sheet.
Jackman clearly loves being onstage. And he loves interacting with the fans. I’ll repeat a little bit from my post yesterday:
The audience was a real hodgepodge of theatre fans and people who may have attended solely to see him live onstage. The level of theatre ettiquette was troubling to me, with several people in front of me texting and/or getting out of their seats to use the restrooms during the performance, all following lots of initial audible grumbling about there being no intermission in the show.
Jackman never lost his cool and seemed to be enjoying himself more as the crowd reacted loudly to his onstage shenanigans and personal stories. He seemed to intuitively know that people would be there for different reasons and naturally appreciated that. He also, crucially, was prepared to ride the wave of spontaneity and precision that a performance generates, as when a technical element failed early in the show, and his later invitation of an audience member to join him in an onstage cover of “Fever” by Peggy Lee. Jackman’s ease and delight seemed to exemplify that in-the-moment effect that performing onstage brings.
On the technical side, the production was still getting on its feet. Sometimes the vocal mixing seemed to overpower Jackman. This seemed to happen often with his two brassy and energetic backup singers, Merle Dandridge and Angel Reda. I wondered just how much rehearsal time they had, where Dandridge’s Facebook fan page makes it appear that she may have been cast just 2-3 weeks ago. Admittedly, sometimes gigs are like that, and you have to make all systems go.
I did very acutely notice the tonal shifts in the performance. Jackman’s early buoyancy – including changing his pants onstage and presenting a montage of scenes from his film appearances – was later tempered by a segment about the Australian Outback and a closing number with “mystery guest” Richard Marx. I’m not sure if Marx will appear in every performance of the revue, or if Jackman has other guests up his sleeve, where Nicole Kidman was reportedly in the preview/first night audience.
If I was shaping the show for future performances, I might look at that same flow of songs and subjects. The Outback segment was very moving, but also felt like a tourist infomercial for Australia. Similarly, the film segments and Wolverine jokes had their place and time, but didn’t appeal to everyone. I’m a firm believer of the power of simplicity in performance, as in when Jackman took the lead on solo numbers on stage. If he sprinkles some more of those in to the mix … or saved them until the end, creating literal stages of his show, he can have a winning theatrical combination.