The sixth in a series of fan encounters with favorite actors.
Hugh Jackman first got my attention when I saw the trailer for Kate & Leopold in 2001. Then I saw X-Men on video, and that’s when I became truly obsessed. I started watching everything he’d done, including the West End Oklahoma recording and The Man From Snowy River television show. The internet was still a novelty to me then, since I got my first computer in 1999 (not counting the Apple IIe I used for about five minutes in college). I joined a Hugh Jackman online fan group and wasted many hours in chat rooms.
I heard that Hugh Jackman would be singing with a group of distinguished Broadway performers at Carnegie Hall. It was going to be a concert version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel, with the actors performing the dialogue and songs in costume with the orchestra onstage. There was only one performance scheduled, on June 6, 2002, and some of the other performers were Audra MacDonald, Norbert Leo Butz, Blythe Danner, Philip Bosco and John Raitt. I decided it was finally time to visit New York City (even though 9/11 was just a few months before). The tickets weren’t cheap, and I had to become a member of Carnegie Hall to buy one. The Carnegie people were delightful to deal with, and they took great care of me.
The night before Carousel, I met up with the members of my online fan group who came to see the concert. It became immediately clear that the leader of this group was not an ordinary fan. She was a little scary in her obsession and definitely a control freak. There were whispers around the table about how a few members had bumped into Hugh Jackman on the street near Carnegie Hall, and this woman was livid because they interacted with Jackman without her. The other fans were nice and relatively normal, as normal as anyone who travels for miles and spends hundreds of dollars to see their favorite actor perform.
The weather in Manhattan was so hot and still, I had to buy a pair of shorts. I was stunned at how much New York completely assaults all your senses. I was especially struck by all the smells, which were heightened by the weird weather. It turned out the hot stillness was a sign of a big rainstorm, and it hit when I was getting dressed to go to Carnegie Hall. I wore a vintage outfit, but the only shoes I could find that didn’t hurt my feet were Chinese slippers. It took me ages to hail a cab in the pouring rain, and my shoes were completely ruined five minutes after leaving the hotel. We got stuck in a traffic jam a few blocks from Carnegie Hall, so I had to get out of the cab and run the rest of the way. I stuffed my shoes with paper towels during the concert.
Once I started to dry off, I was able to sit back and enjoy the show. It was marvelous, of course. Audra MacDonald was lovely as Julie Jordan, Hugh Jackman was charismatic as ne’er-do-well Billy Bigelow, and Norbert Leo Butz was delightful as Jigger. I thought I’d be focused on Jackman, but the rest of the cast were too talented to ignore. Carousel is not my favorite musical, but it was a thoroughly entertaining evening.
After the performance, a large group of us gathered at the stage door. Unfortunately, it was still raining hard. The door had no awning, so we all huddled under umbrellas and tried to stay cheerful and warm. We waited and waited and waited some more. We were told there was some sort of dinner or party backstage. After over an hour, many people gave up and left. The longer I waited, the more I was determined to stick it out. I passed the time chatting with the other drowned rats, those from our fan group but other diehard fans as well. When Hugh Jackman finally came out after two hours, my group leader told him, “My people are the only ones who waited to see you in the rain!” It was so unfair and wrong, I had to say “That’s not true!” I promised two people who gave up waiting that I’d get them autographs. By the time Jackman signed the third one for me, his signature was pretty unreadable. What I remember most was how warm his arm was, as I stood next to him, which just goes to show how cold I was. He was charming and lovely, but it was really late. He said he had to get home to take care of his little boy. Everyone who stayed got their photos and autographs, so we had nothing to complain about. I believe that if Jackman had known we were there, he’d have come out to meet us sooner and then gone back in to the party.
The following October, I took myself back to New York to spend a landmark birthday with Hugh Jackman. It was opening week of The Boy from Oz. This time I avoided all fan groups and had a much better experience because of it. I had a great seat (row H) two rows behind Barbara Walters. The Boy from Oz is about Australian singer/songwriter Peter Allen, a flamboyant showman who was discovered by Judy Garland, married Liza Minnelli, then had a male partner before dying of AIDS. Jackman was incredible, and he won the Tony Award for his performance. Stephanie J. Block was lovely as Liza (and later starred with Hadley Fraser in The Pirate Queen). Isabel Keating made a very convincing Judy Garland, and I especially liked little Mitchel David Federan as Young Peter. At the stage door after the show, Hugh Jackman didn’t keep us waiting as long. He was just as friendly, and he wished me a happy birthday when I mentioned what day it was. He also learned to shorten his autograph to HJ. I went back twice to the stage door to take photos and to say hello. Hugh Jackman was always surrounded by large groups of fans, and he was always genuine and friendly. The guy is just plain nice, one of the nicest actors I’ve ever met. And he’s gorgeous, of course.
Last month, Jackman performed some concerts here in San Francisco. I didn’t attend, because the tickets were too expensive. The word of mouth was that Jackman was wonderful, but the backup singers were unnecessary and distracting.
Here’s a video from Carousel, obviously filmed by an audience member.
[A funny footnote: the grammar check on wordpress just gave this as an example of the passive voice, when I ran it on this post: “Before: Wolverine was made to be a weapon. After: The government made Wolverine. Wolverine is a weapon. “]