Hugh Jackman on 'The Music Man': 'There's nothing like doing a musical on Broadway'
"The thrill is mine, trust me," Hugh Jackman said, when told it's thrilling to see him on Broadway for the first time in seven years. Since December 2021, Jackman has been leading the big parade as Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man, and he was just nominated for the 2022 Best Leading Actor in a Musical Tony Award for his performance.
Jackman, whose roots are on stage in Australia, achieved A-list Hollywood stardom by playing Wolverine in X-Men and other high-profile films like Les Misérables and The Greatest Showman (note the movie musical theme). Winning a 2022 Tony would add to an already stuffed list of accolades, which includes an Emmy, a Grammy, a Golden Globe, and two other Tonys.
However, just being in The Music Man fulfills a special dream that was decades in the making. Jackman has spoken frequently about his love for the musical, which stretches back to his high school days. He's performed its opening number, "Rock Island," on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and the 2014 Tony Awards, hoping one day he'd play Harold.
"It's been a long time since I've done a book musical — actually, 18 years, since The Boy From Oz," said Jackman, referring to his Broadway debut which won him his first Tony. "I've been lucky enough to do films, and I've done some plays, but there's nothing like doing a musical on Broadway. And this is something that I've wanted to do for over 20 years, and doing it with this cast in particular — Sutton Foster is just a dream."
Foster, also a 2022 Tony nominee, stars as Marian Paroo, the wry, guarded librarian in the town that Harold, a con man posing as a music teacher, is trying to swindle out of its money. She's the only one that sees through his charm, but that doesn't mean she's resistant to it. Just as she's ready to expose Harold's scheme, she realizes she's fallen in love with him. She's a stand-in for the audience in a way, as thousands of theatregoers have fallen in love with Jackman. (Our own critic called him "a charm attack in suspendered slacks, nimble-footed, smooth but not slick, with suave vocals and a smile as assured as a railroad.")
And good news, audiences: the love is requited. "There's nothing like Broadway because of the audiences," said Jackman. "The audience comes leaning forward, open-hearted, generous, intelligent, and ready for a great night. And that's what, of course, on stage, we bring every night. That meeting, particularly right now in The Music Man, feels like this bonfire of joy."
This connection with the audience at The Music Man is what he loves about Broadway at large, and which keeps him coming back. "The theatre has always been one of our principal ways to come together as a community. And storytelling forever has been the medium. So right now on Broadway, and with everything we've been through, it's so thrilling to have audiences back, coming together, celebrating, laughing, crying, and communing. And that's what the theatre does."
"It should be something for everybody," he added. "Doesn't matter what age you are. It doesn't matter what your income is. Everyone should be not only invited, but encouraged and welcomed."
Jackman won't be in River City forever — rumors are already circulating about his successor in the role. But Jackman doesn't seem eager to skip town.
"Someone said the other day we're five months in, and I'm already sad that that means that at some point, we'll come to an end," Jackman said, then quickly corrected himself: "Well, maybe — you never know. Maybe I'll Yul Brynner it and be here in 20 years."
Photo credit: Hugh Jackman, Sutton Foster, and the company of The Music Man. (Photo by Julieta Cervantes)