He’s a metrosexual’s dream come true: A macho star of action movies (Wolverine in the X-Men series) who isn’t afraid to kick up his heels, act gay and confess his love of Broadway show tunes. Hugh Jackman Back on Broadway has already set house records at the Broadhurst Theater (partly because prime tickets have been jacked up to $350 apiece), and is attracting the kind of delirious fans — both inside and outside the theater — rarely seen since the Beatles left Shea stadium. Frankly, I don’t quite get it. Jackman has a clear, bright Broadway voice, but it’s too boyish and unmodulated to get much emotion out of big numbers like “Soliloquy” from Carousel, with which he closes the first act. But lord, the guy knows how to seduce an audience. He schmoozes with the crowd, plops himself in the lap of one or two of them, reminisces engagingly (with pictures!) about his life and family, and picks song medleys (favorite movie musicals; a “gotta dance” mash-up) with enough crowd pleasers to make Glee look avant-garde.
Jackman’s show is a no-calorie treat in an unusually earnest Broadway fall: not a single new musical has opened so far this season, while a number of straight plays have wowed the critics and drawn well at the box office. It’s a healthy sign that Broadway is not just candy-coated tourist bait these days, but that doesn’t automatically mean better theater. A look at some of the hits, the misses and the in-between: