Hugh Jackman theatre roles we love, from 'The Boy From Oz' to 'The Music Man'

Jackman's work has won him a Tony, Emmy, Grammy, and more.

Ayanna Prescod
Ayanna Prescod

The latest Broadway revival of The Music Man sees Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster leading the big parade. But although he's widely known for his onscreen roles like Wolverine in X-Men, this show is far from Jackman's first rodeo with musical theatre. The Grammy, Tony, and Emmy Award-winning star is a seasoned stage performer and has plenty of credits to show for it.

The Australian native's first major role onstage was Gaston in the 1995 production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast in Melbourne. The actor would then go on to play Joe Gillis, the male lead in the 1996 Australian production of Sunset Boulevard, further cementing himself as a stage star. Since then, Jackman has starred in several plays, musicals, and musical films, and he's even hosted the Oscars and Tonys. Go with us on a parade through the most notable highlights from Jackman's illustrious theatre career.

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Directed by Sir Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Susan Stroman, the 1998 West End production of Oklahoma! marked Jackman's debut (and only) turn on the London stage. Jackman starred as Curly McLain alongside Tony Award winner Shuler Hensley as Jud Fry, Josefina Gabrielle as Laurey, Maureen Lipman as Aunt Eller, Vicki Simon as Ado Annie, Jimmy Johnston as Will Parker, and Peter Polycarpou as Ali Hakim.

The production, put on by the Royal National Theatre was filmed at Shepperton Studios in London. Notably, the show marked the first time Jackman and Hensley were co-stars — the second time being in The Music Man on Broadway. Jackman plays con man Harold Hill and Hensley plays his former accomplice, Marcellus Washburn.

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The Boy From Oz

The Boy From Oz was one of the biggest new Broadway musicals in the early 2000s. At the Imperial Theatre in 2003, Jackman made his own Broadway debut in this musicalized true story based on the late entertainer Peter Allen. Allen was a protege of the legendary Judy Garland and was briefly married to her daughter, Liza Minnelli, before he died of complications from AIDS in 1992.

The show received mixed reviews, but Jackman got near-universal praise for his performance, cementing him as a Broadway star. Taking a page from Allen, he got plenty of buzz from bantering with the audience. For example, a Vanity Fair article reports that he provided World Series updates during a performance where he noticed multiple audience members checking their phones for the score. Jackman won a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, Drama League Award, and Outer Critics Circle Award for playing Allen, and he reprised the role when The Boy From Oz toured in Australia.

Oscars opening number

Years later, fans still call Jackman's opening number during the 2009 Academy Awards the best Oscars opening of all time. The act consisted of Jackman singing a catchy song that described the films, characters, and stories of that year's Best Picture nominees.

Anne Hathaway even joined Jackman for a few minutes on stage to perform together. But it was the ending that captured the hearts of many. Jackman ended the opening by simply saying, "I'm Wolverine," reminding us all of his status as both a talented theatre artist and a movie star all at once.

A Steady Rain

For three months in the fall of 2009, Jackman co-starred alongside Daniel Craig as the top cops in the Broadway production of A Steady Rain at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. A Steady Rain, written by Keith Huff, explores love and rage on the streets of Chicago, as a routine domestic disturbance call sends two Chicago cops on a harrowing journey that will test their loyalties and change their lives. Coincidentally, both Craig and Jackman are making returns to Broadway this season: Craig is starring in the titular role of Macbeth alongside Ruth Negga.

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Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway

In 2011, Jackman held a residency at the Broadhurst Theatre and performed his personal favorite Broadway and Hollywood musical numbers backed by an 18-piece orchestra. There was no particular story, just the man and his music. (Music Man pun intended.) He received a Special Tony Award in 2012 for the residency. The director/choreographer of Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway was Warren Carlyle, who is also choreographing The Music Man. What a reunion!

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The River

Over at the Circle in the Square Theatre in 2014, Jackman played alongside Laura Donnelly and Cush Jumbo in the original Broadway production of The River. The mysterious drama from Jez Butterworth (a Best Play Tony winner for The Ferryman), unfolds in a remote cabin in the woods. Adding to the mystery, Jackman's character is called simply The Man, who has an odd ritual of taking his girlfriends to said cabin. The 13-week limited engagement was completely sold out before opening night.

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The Greatest Showman

Sure, 2017's The Greatest Showman isn't a stage credit, but the film showcases Jackman at his most extravagantly theatrical. Jackman stars as P. T. Barnum alongside Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, and Keala Settle. Featuring nine original songs from Broadway composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen), the film was inspired by the story of P.T. Barnum's creation of Barnum's American Museum and the lives of its star attractions. As an ever-spirited Barnum, Jackman put on the greatest show and got a Golden Globe nomination for it.

Hugh Jackman in The Music Man

The Music Man

The Music Man revival is Jackman's latest musical project. He transforms into Professor Harold Hill, a con man who aims to swindle a rural Iowa town, and performs alongside two-time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster as Marian Paroo, the librarian who wins Harold's heart. The Music Man was an instant smash hit when it premiered on Broadway in 1957. The musical went on to win five Tony Awards, including the prize for Best Musical, and ran for 1,375 performances. The original cast album held the number one position on the Billboard charts, stayed on the album charts for 245 weeks, and later won the first-ever Grammy Award for Best Original Cast Album.

Perhaps you've seen the YouTube clips of him performing "Rock Island" on Jay Leno or at the Tony Awards — Jackman's openly longed to play Harold ever since he lost out on the role in high school. Now, he's living his longtime dream, and if your dream is to see Jackman perform live, you can march on over to Broadway and see him take on the iconic part.

Find out more about how The Music Man inspired Hugh Jackman.

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