Australian actor Hugh Jackman might have portrayed P.T. Barnum as “The Greatest Showman,” but I’d venture to say the performer’s “The Man. The Music. The Show.” world tour puts him in the running for the title as well.
The packed house Thursday at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City cheered especially loud for Jackman as he took fans on a musical journey through his life during the first of two nights on his Utah tour stop.
Jackman demonstrated his knack for numbers by summing up the concert as 193 total crew, 10 singers and dancers, 20 musicians, 50 choir members, two acts, and one 20-minute intermission.
“I know things like the fact that Salt Lake City is the biggest producer of rubber chickens in America. Did you know that? Twenty thousand rubber chickens per year are made here,” Jackman told the crowd. “I can also tell you that this city used to be called Great Salt Lake City, but that was changed. The ‘Great’ was dropped in 1868. And do you know why it was dropped? Because everybody knew it was great.”
Jackman opened the concert with an exhilarating rendition of “The Greatest Show” from “The Greatest Showman” and performed a few other hits from the movie throughout the night including “Come Alive” and “From Now On” with the help of the energetic crew of back-up singers and dancers.
The group incorporated American Sign Language into their performance of “A Million Dreams” and a few other times during the show.
The actor said he owes “a massive thank you to Salt Lake City” for its support of “The Greatest Showman.” He said the area, which normally ranks somewhere in the middle of other locations throughout the nation at the box office due to population, came in third after New York and California for the 2017 film.
Keala Settle of “The Greatest Showman” made a special guest appearance at the concert, performing a powerful live version of “This Is Me.”
“Keala is a great friend of mine,” Jackman said as he introduced Settle. “She’s an inspiration to me and to millions of people around the world. For me, she’s the definition of courage. She walks the talk of being true to herself every single day of her life.”
Jackman rolled up his sleeves to perform “Gaston” from “Beauty and the Beast,” flexing his biceps on cue, and play the piano as he sang “You Will Be Found” from “Dear Evan Hansen.” The Las Vegas Academy of the Arts Choir joined Jackman and his crew onstage for this number and a few others during the concert.
The showman recounted memories from his life between songs, including a time as a young boy when he sat on his driveway waiting for a ride to his first cricket game that never came.
“I wish more than anything I could go back to that 8-year-old version of myself sitting at the end of the driveway, put my arm around me and just assure me that everything’s going to be OK,” Jackman said. “Yes, this feels terrible and yes, there’s a lot going on right now that you don’t understand, but this will not define you. In fact, what will define you is just how many people will be there to pick you up when you fall.”
The group performed an emotional “Les Misérables” medley including “Valjean’s Soliloquy,” “I Dreamed a Dream” and “One Day More” to end the first act before leaving the stage for the intermission.
Jackman returned for the second act both in costume and character as Peter Allen and performed several of Allen’s hits as a tribute to Jackman’s Tony-winning role in “The Boy from Oz.” The actor descended from the stage to interact with the crowd during this segment and brought a couple back onstage with him for an impromptu dance party to a brief cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”
He sang several classic songs throughout the show, from a performance dedicated to his wife of “All the Way,” their wedding first waltz song, to a movie musical medley including “Singing in the Rain” and “I Got Rhythm.”
“Dreams are really powerful, aren’t they? Not a person here tonight who doesn’t have a dream, and what goes with dreams are dragons, right? The dragons that guard the treasure,” Jackman said. “Growing up in Australia, my dream was to be in a movie musical one day, right? My dragon was, ‘How on earth could a kid from Turramurra ever possibly be in a movie musical?’ But I used to just love watching them.”
Jackman appealed to Wolverine fans by wielding two drumsticks as claws after an upbeat tap dance number incorporating drums and showing a clip of the character emerging from water.
“That is how I get out of the bath every morning, folks,” Jackman said.
Four musicians from an organization called Nomad Two Worlds joined Jackman onstage for an Aboriginal Australian number including didgeridoos and a cover of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
The aboriginal lyrics were later translated as, “The land is crying for its people, and the people are crying for the land. Do not be silent. Speak up for her,” and, “I have a dream. My dream has come true.”
“It seems to us we live in an increasingly divided world, and what we wanted to bring to Salt Lake City tonight is that idea of reconciliation through music, through culture,” Jackman said.
Jackman put on a thrilling spectacle that brought many audience members to their feet in applause several times throughout the night.
“I have lived a life that I never, ever dreamt possible,” Jackman said.