After spending the night in either dashing formalwear or glitzy Vegas garb, Hugh Jackman donned just a black T-shirt and jeans for “Mack the Knife” late on Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center.
As he went into the song’s big finish, he revved up his right arm in a windmill like Elvis, leapt triumphantly into the air and flashed that million-dollar movie-star smile, half in cockiness, half in jubilation. Then he pulled down his T-shirt like a dad, gazed into the cheering throng and stopped in his tracks.
“This is my favorite sight of the night,” Jackman announced. A young girl in the front row — whom he’d singled out earlier in the evening — was dressed just like a pink-haired character in Jackman’s hit 2017 movie “The Greatest Showman.” Now she was asleep in her mother’s arms.
It was Hugh Jackman in a nutshell. Sentimental, sweet and spontaneous.
We’ve long known that he’s handsome and hunky and a dazzling song-and-dance man. But he’s really funny, too. All those traits made Jackman’s “The Man. The Music. The Show” one of the more uncompromisingly ambitious, flashily entertaining and consistently uplifting tours undertaken by a performer you never expected to see in a sports arena.
He’s a big-time movie star. And a Tony-winning musical theater veteran. And fans of all stripes packed the X — people in Wolverine T-shirts (thank you, “X-Men”), youngsters in top hats (see “The Greatest Showman”), people in rainbow colors (see “The Boy from Oz”) and just folks in their Saturday-night outfits.
Jackman played the Pride Weekend card, pointing out that he’d just learned (from the local One Voice Mixed Chorus, which backed him on a few tunes), about the expanded acronym GLBTQIA. “A” stood for “ally,” and he proclaimed that he was a proud ally. He wasn’t pandering; he was merely underscoring a theme of his show, which told the story of his life. Be who you are.
The 50-year-old revisited different chapters, like when his older brother called 9-year-old Hugh a sissy for wanting to take dance lessons. Or when his wife gave him a pep talk about how to portray Wolverine when complaining studio bosses were about to fire him.
Those were scripted moments that made important points complementing the messages of songs such as “You Will Be Found” (from the musical “Dear Evan Hansen”) and the Disney-ish “A Million Dreams” (from “Showman”).
When Jackman went off script, the admiration for this irresistibly charismatic man increased manyfold. After helping a fan deliver a marriage proposal, Jackman interviewed the couple like an inquisitive journalist — and then hugged each of them and made sure the moment was captured on a cellphone.
The hammy and cheesy showman pulled Brandon, a family doctor, out of the crowd and said he was having sinus problems. He opened his mouth for an exam, but the doctor patted the stomach of the Jackson, who’s built like “Beauty and the Beast’s” Gaston, and told him to lose a little weight. The movie star was upstaged — and he genuinely laughed along with 14,000 people.
Those moments elevated what sometimes felt like an overstuffed Broadway-meets-Hollywood revue. Backed by an orchestra, Jackman indulged in too many (seven!) songs by Peter “The Boy From Oz” Allen. On the 50th anniversary of Judy Garland’s death (as he noted), Jackman’s reading of her signature “Over the Rainbow” with didgeridoo players and aboriginal singers lacked drama, focus and impact.
While he perhaps tried to touch too many bases during his two-act, 2¼-hour show, the long-legged Aussie demonstrated impressive tap-dance skills (to an odd medley of AC/DC and Van Halen) and fabulously fluid moves during his campy Allen numbers. Nonetheless, his other ensemble work wasn’t as articulately defined as that of his 10 dancers.
As a singer, Jackman sparkled on bravura finishes like “Valjean’s Soliloquy” from “Les Miserables.” But there was nothing to suggest he’s headed to a Grammy-winning recording career.
No, Jackman isn’t the greatest singer. Or the greatest dancer. But on Saturday, he sure seemed like the greatest guy in showbiz.
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719