By MARK KENNEDY, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Hugh Jackman has found a surefire way for losing weight. It's a two-step process.
"Take up musical theater. Then do a 2-2 1/2-hour one-man show. Trust me, it will go just like that," the Australian song-and-dance man says, snapping his fingers. "I should do an infomercial."
The pounds are melting away for the 43-year-old Tony Award winner as sings, dances, bumps and grinds in his new one-man show "Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway." How many pounds? Plenty. The man famous for playing the X-Man Wolverine says his pants are being taken in every two days.
"When you dance, your body just wants to find its natural weight," says Jackman, who adds that he's normally more lean than muscular. "I'm naturally a lot more Tommy Tune than I am Wolverine."
That Jackman is familiar with both is a testament to his varied career, one that has taken the heartthrob from musical theater in London to starring in the "X-Men" franchise to more intimate film work such as Woody Allen's "Scoop" to hosting the Oscars and lending his voice to the penguin Memphis in the animated movie "Happy Feet."
Warren Carlyle, who directs and choreographs Jackman's show, which opened Tuesday at the Broadhurst Theatre, says working with the actor is an unbelievable treat because he's game for anything.
"There are no limitations. You never have to dance around him. You never have to worry he can't deliver something because you can ask him to do anything," says Carlyle, who adds that Jackman only learned how to tap dance a few weeks ago. "He's really something."
In the show, which runs through Jan. 1, Jackman takes the audience on a musical journey to some of his favorite places, from the steamy R&B hit "Fever" to a medley from his Tony-winning turn in "The Boy From Oz" to classics such as "Singin' in the Rain" and "Mack the Knife."
"It's selfishly all related to me," says Jackman, who during the show jokes with the audience and shares stories of his life, his family and his career. "My main goal, to be honest, was to genuinely pick stuff that I loved doing."
Jackman is in high energy during the show, working hard through perspiration on numbers including an eight-minute version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic "Soliloquy" from "Carousel," which he calls "the `Hamlet' of musical theater." Fans showing up only to see an X-Man may be disappointed.
"I'm surprised how many Wolverine fans come. At one point, I mention Wolverine and you hear them – `Wooo!' And I'm like, `Oh boy, it's going to be a long night for you guys,'" he says, laughing, in an interview.
His inspiration was a Frank Sinatra concert filmed in Las Vegas in which the crooner chatted to guests from the stage between songs. "I thought, `That's the kind of night you don't see any more at the theater,'" says Jackman. "I didn't actually count but I remember thinking at one point, `That's a lot of whiskey he's drinking.'"
Jackman began thinking of returning to song and dance six months ago when he grew frustrated that the filming of "The Wolverine" was being continually delayed, first by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and then by the departure of director Darren Aronofsky. Jackman realized he'd spent most of the past year bulking up in preparation for a movie that wasn't happening.
"There's only so many times you can eat 6,000 calories and train at the gym," he says. "I didn't want to get to the situation where it was like, `Oh my God. It's been 10 years since I sung. I don't know if I can do it anymore.'"
He consulted with friend Richard Marx, the musician and producer behind such 1980s hits as "Endless Summer Nights" and "Right Here Waiting," and began constructing a one-man show, taking it to San Francisco and Toronto before New York.
The result has an 18-piece orchestra and six slinky dancers as a showcase for Jackman's humor, his pipes and his moves. Wolverine fans may be saddened to learn that he scrapped plans for a song performed while wearing the superhero's claws. "It just didn't work," he says.
In recent years, Jackman's ability to switch from action flicks to soft-shoe stage numbers has inspired "Saturday Night Live" to create a recurring sketch about him being both "the most masculine and most feminine man in the world." Take, for example, his last and next movie roles: He's currently in the action-packed robot boxing story "Real Steel" but next year plans to star in a version of the musical "Les Miserables."
Jackman gets the joke. He says his versatility stems from a vow he made after leaving drama school to never close off potential work, whether it was singing, dancing, comedy, Shakespeare or even a superhero drama. "It started as a way of always growing as an actor. That was the way I was taught and that was the way I seemed to thrive. And, frankly, stay employed," he says.
This is Jackman's third time on Broadway – following "The Boy From Oz" and the play "A Steady Rain" with Daniel Craig in 2009 – and he has received a huge welcome. Jackman has broken the Broadhurst Theatre's box-office record with $1.2 million tickets sold in a single week, beating "700 Sundays" starring Billy Crystal, "Hamlet" with Jude Law and "The Merchant of Venice" starring Al Pacino.
"I've always felt embraced by the Broadway community even before I felt like I earned it," says Jackman, whose other stage credits include Australian productions of "Sunset Boulevard" and "Beauty and the Beast." In London he starred as Curly in Trevor Nunn's staging of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!"
"Part of you is sort of relieved that people want to come because, hey, I don't particularly want to do it to an empty barn. And part of you goes, `Oh. I hope they don't expect too much,'" he says. "It's the schizophrenia of acting."
In an odd quirk, Jackman won't be the only veteran entertainer singing show tunes in a concert on Broadway this season. He'll be competing for attention with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin, who have their own musical trip.
Jackman doesn't see it as competing – he's a fan, calling the duo "two of my favorite performers." He points out that this is just his third foray on Broadway and only the second time he's sung. "Those guys are legends and their body of work is enormous and important and fantastic," he says. "I feel like I'm just beginning."
Jackman also notes that his show is not an out-and-out biography, though the audience does see a childhood photo of him and hears stories about his wife, son and father. But the main focus, he insists, is entertainment.
"Don't worry, it's not like `Oprah,'" he says, and then adds something many in his audience would die to have a shot at: "I want people to feel like they've had a night with me."
Watch Hugh Jackman, back on Broadway:
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