The Hugh Jackman Fame Audit
Name: Hugh Michael Jackman
Occupation: Actor, singer/dancer, fox
Experience: 32 movies and TV appearances; three-time host of the Tonys
If you're anything like we are, when you first heard about Viva Laughlin -- a musical based on Britain's wildly popular Viva Blackpool, in which the stars sing along to well-known music tracks -- you thought to yourself, "Hmm. Now, why would I want to watch that again?" CBS anticipated your confusion, and has therefore spent much of its promotional time assuring you that the show will feature -- at least at times, for a while, maybe -- both Melanie Griffith, whose lips have apparently regained the ability to move independently, and Hugh Jackman, who's also a producer on the show. Since absolutely no one has cared about Melanie Griffith in years and years (sorry, but it's true; Mulholland Falls was eleven years ago now), it's clear that Laughlin's best argument in favor of its own relevance is Hugh Jackman. So just how famous is Hugh? Famous enough to carry this show?
Let's start with the fact that one of the things that makes Hugh Jackman interesting is his stubborn refusal to embrace any one kind of fame and ride it with the kind of single-minded determination that might have allowed him to become a standard leading man or, alternatively, a blockbuster sci-fi guy. He tends to disappear from high-profile movies right at the peak of his fame to go and do theater -- the only project of his between the second (2003) and third (2006) X-Men movies that you've actually heard of was Van Helsing, because he was off winning a Tony (see below) -- and he tends to swerve in unexpected directions from time to time. Thus, his association with Viva Laughlin isn't as much of a surprise as it would be with some people.
Nor is the fact that he's associated with a musical any kind of a surprise. What many didn't know when they watched him show off his steely chops as Wolverine, one of comic-book history's iconic angry brooders, was that he was coming off a hugely successful run in the London stage revival of Oklahoma!. Furthermore, he was no dabbler, leveraging fame accumulated elsewhere to spend a little time warbling and prancing around. (Yes, endless stream of actresses with names like "Brooke Shields" "Melina Kanakaredes" who have inhabited the role of Sally Bowles in Cabaret, we are talking about you. In this context -- unlike in most others -- when we say, "You are no Liza Minnelli," it is not a compliment.) Jackman is a legitimate song-and-dance monster, who later earned killer reviews and a Tony for his turn as Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz. Hugh Jackman, ladies and gentlemen -- a man who has historically exuded a sex vibe so abundant and pliable that he could sing "I Go To Rio" to the back row wearing a sparkly pink shirt and shaking silver maracas, and then stuff himself right back into Wolverine's leathers. And he is completely convincing -- and hot like molten lava -- in both settings.